Is Energy Justice in the Fossil Fuel Industry a Paradox?

  • Tedd Moya MoseEmail author
  • Mohammad Hazrati


Globally, the attempts to reverse the anthropogenic effects of climate change have led to burgeoning scholarship on ‘energy justice’. Energy Justice focuses on: (1) mitigating injustices associated with energy systems, (2) fairly distributing both the burdens and benefits of energy systems, and (3) having impartial and representative decision-making. Using notions such as recognition, procedural, distribution, and restorative justice, it informs energy system stakeholders to provide equitable energy services to all. Currently, there are some inherent injustices (such as climate change) that are associated with the fossil fuel-based energy system. These distinctive injustices make the transition away from fossil fuels inevitable. However, the global energy mix suggests that fossil fuels will still have a significant role in future. There is, therefore, a gap between the desired low-carbon future and present realities. This disparity is evinced by the exclusion or absence of key actors (the fossil fuel industry) in energy justice strategies. This chapter examines how energy justice principles can be applied to the fossil fuel industry even as the transition to more sustainable energy sources is pursued. It advances two key themes: First, how energy justice may balance the energy trilemma in the fossil fuel industry. Second, it proposes the immediate application of energy justice principles to the fossil fuel industry.


Energy justice Fossil fuels International energy law Energy trilemma Energy transition 


  1. Allen, D.W. 2001. Social Class, Race, and Toxic Releases in American Counties, 1995. The Social Science Journal 38: 13–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Moneef, M. 2011. Global Energy Outlook: Challenges and Opportunities for the GCC. In: The Oil Era: Emerging Challenges. Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), p. 18.Google Scholar
  3. Berman, P. 2012. Global Legal Pluralism: A Jurisprudence of Law Beyond Borders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bersisa, M. 2017. Multidimensional Measure of Household Energy Poverty and Its Determinants in Ethiopia. In: Heshmati, A. (Ed.) Economic Transformation for Poverty Reduction in Africa: A Multidimensional Approach. Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Bradbrook, A. 2011. Creating Law for Next Generation Energy Technologies. Journal of Energy & Environmental Law Winter: 17–38.Google Scholar
  6. Cameron, P.D. and Stanley, M.C. 2017. Oil, Gas and Mining: A Source Book for Understanding the Extractive Industries. The World Bank.Google Scholar
  7. Cameron, P., Neira Castro, J-F., Lanardonne, T. and Wood, G. 2018. Across the Universe of Shale Resources—A Comparative Assessment of the Emerging Legal Foundations for Unconventional Energy. Journal of World Energy Law and Business 11: 283–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carrington, D. 2019. “Worrying” Rise in Global CO2 Forecast for 2019. The Guardian, January 25, 2019.
  9. CNBC Markets. 2018. IEA Report: Global Oil Supply Hit a Record High in August Despite Iran, Venezuela Fallout.
  10. Committee on America’s Energy Future. 2009. America’s Energy Future. National Academies Press, p. 333.Google Scholar
  11. Crawford, J. 2012. Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dale, S. and Fattouh, B. 2018. Peak Oil Demand and Long-Run Oil Prices. The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, January 2018.
  13. Devold, H. 2013. Oil and Gas Production Handbook: An Introduction to Oil and Gas Production, Transport, Refining, and Petrochemical Industry (ABB).
  14. Dixon, M. 2013. Textbook on International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eftimie, A., Heller, K. and Strongman, J. 2009. Gender Dimensions of the Extractive Industries: Mining for Equity. The World Bank.
  16. Extractives Hub. 2017. Environmental Management.
  17. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). 2018. EITI Factsheet.
  18. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). n.d. Who We Are.
  19. Garthoff, J. 2010. Legitimacy Is Not Authority. Law and Philosophy 29(6): 669–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Global Goals. 2019. Goals 7: Affordable and Clean Energy.
  21. Heffron, R. 2015. Energy Law: An Introduction. Springer.Google Scholar
  22. Heffron, R.J. and McCauley, D. 2017. The Concept of Energy Justice Across the Disciplines. Energy Policy 105: 658–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heffron, R.J., McCauley, D. and Sovacool, B.K. 2015. Resolving Society’s Energy Trilemma Through the Energy Justice Metric. Energy Policy 87: 168–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 2014. Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 1261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2015. The World Energy Outlook Electricity Access Database.
  26. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2017. Energy Access Outlook 2017: From Poverty to Prosperity.
  27. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2018a. Glossary.
  28. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2018b. Oil Markets Report: September 2018.
  29. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2018c. Perspective for Energy Transition: The Role of Energy Efficiency.
  30. International Energy Agency (IEA). 2018d. Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) by Source World 1990–2016.
  31. Jenkins, K.E.H., McCauley, D., Heffron, R. and Hannes, S. 2014. Energy Justice, A Whole System Approach. Queens Political Review 2(2): 74–87.Google Scholar
  32. Jenkins, K.E.H., McCauley, D., Heffron, R., Hannes, S. and Rehner, R.W.M. 2016. Energy Justice: A Conceptual Review. Energy Research & Social Science 11: 174–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jenkins, K., McCauley, D. and Forman, A. 2017. Energy Justice: A Policy Approach. In: Jenkins, K., McCauley, D. and Forman, A. (Eds.) Exploring the Energy Justice Nexus: Energy Policy Virtual Special Issue. Energy Policy, October 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liebenthal, L., Michelitsch, R. and Tarazona, E. 2005. Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development: An Evaluation of World Bank Group Experience.
  35. McCauley, D. 2018. Energy Justice: Re-Balancing the Trilemma of Security, Poverty and Climate Change. Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  36. McCauley, D., Heffron, R., Hannes, S. and Jenkins, K.E.H. 2013. Advancing Energy Justice: The Triumvirate of Tenets and Systems Thinking. International Energy Law Review 32(3): 107–116.Google Scholar
  37. McCauley, D., Heffron, R., Pavlenko, M., Rehner, R.W.M. and Homes, R.T. 2016. Energy Justice in the Arctic: Implications for Energy Infrastructural Development in the Arctic. Energy Research & Social Science 17: 56–65.Google Scholar
  38. Natural Resource Governance Institute. 2018. Open Contracting for Oil, Gas and Mineral Rights: Shining a Light on Good Practice.
  39. Ottinger, R., Robinson, N. and Tafur, V. 2005. IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Research Studies. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Quéré, C.L., et al. 2018. Global Carbon Budget 2017. Earth System Science Data 10(1): 405–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rawls, J. 1999. A Theory of Justice, Revised ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Reig, P., Luo, T. and Proctor, J.N. 2014. Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability and Business Risks (World Resource Institute).
  43. Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. 2018. CO2 and Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Our World in Data).
  44. Robins, N., Brunsting, V. and Wood, D. 2018. Investing in a Just Transition: Why Investors Need to Integrate a Social Dimension to Their Climate Strategies and How They Could Take Action.
  45. Sari, S., Voyvoda, E., Lacey-Barnacle, M., Karababa, E., Topal, C. and Islambay, D. 2018. Energy Justice: A Social Science and Humanities Cross Cutting Theme Report (Shape Energy, June 2017).
  46. Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks. 2018. Preliminary Opinion on the Public Health Impacts and Risks Resulting from Onshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Exploitation in the EU.
  47. Segger, M-C.S. 2016. Advancing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change for Sustainable Development. Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law 5(2): 202–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sen, A. 2011. The Idea of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Smart, I. 1981. Energy and the Public Good. International Journal 36(2): 255–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sovacool, B.K. and Dworkin, M.H. 2014. Global Energy Justice: Problems, Principles, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sovacool, B.K. and Dworkin, M.H. 2015. Energy Justice: Conceptual Insights and Practical Applications. Applied Energy 142: 435–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sovacool, B.K., Heffron, R.J., McCauley, D. and Goldthau, A. 2016. Energy Decisions Reframed as Justice and Ethical Concerns. Nature Energy 1: 16–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Spang, E., Moomaw, W., Gallagher, K.S., Kirshen, P. and Marks, D.H. 2014. The Water Consumption of Energy Production: An International Comparison’. Environmental Research Letters 9: 105002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Spier, J. 2018. The Principles on Climate Obligations of Enterprises: An Attempt to Give Teeth to the Universally Adopted View That We Must Keep Global Warming Below an Increase of Two Degrees Celsius. Uniform Law Review 23(2): 319–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Steger, U. 2010. Sustainable Development and Innovation in the Energy Sector. Springer.Google Scholar
  56. Stern, N. 2006. The Stern Review: Report on the Economics of Climate Change. London: Cabinet Office—HM Treasury.Google Scholar
  57. The World Bank. 2018. New Satellite Data Reveals Progress: Global Gas Flaring Declined in 2017.
  58. UK Office for National Statistics. 2015. Excess Winter Mortality in England and Wales: 2014/15 (Provisional) and 2013/14 (Final).
  59. UNICEF. 2015. Oil and Gas Scooping Study: UNICEF Extractive Pilot.
  60. United Nations (UN). 2017. World Population Projected to Reach 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.
  61. United Nations (UN). n.d. Climate Change.
  62. United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 2017. Mapping the Oil and Gas Industry to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Atlas—19 July 2017.
  63. United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). 1997. Environmental Management in Oil and Gas Exploration and Production: An Overview of Issues and Management.
  64. United States Environmental Protection Agency (2012). Report to Congress on Black Carbon (EPA-450/R-12-001, March 2012). Washington DC: US Environmental Protection Agency.Google Scholar
  65. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Black Carbon Basic Information.
  66. Vaughan, A. 2016. Seven Climate Records Set So Far in 2016–17 June 2016. The Guardian.
  67. Walker, G. 2009. Beyond Distribution and Proximity: Exploring the Multiple Spatialities of Environmental Justice. Antipode 41(4): 614–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Watts, J. 2018. Heatwave Sees Record High Temperatures Around World This Week—13 July 2018. The Guardian (US Edition).
  69. Weil, P. 1983. Towards Relative Normativity in International Law?. American Journal of International Law 77(3): 413–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. White, M.A. 2013. Sustainability: I Know It When I See It. Ecological Economics 86: 213–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. World Bank Group. 2003. Striking a Better Balance: The Final Report of Extractive Industries Review, Vol. 1. World Bank Group.Google Scholar
  72. Wood, Geoffrey (2018). Policy Risk, Politics and Low Carbon Energy. In: Considine, J.L. and Paik, K-W. (Eds.) Handbook of Energy Politics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 425–454.Google Scholar
  73. World Energy Council (WEC). 2015. Energy Trilemma Index, February 2015.
  74. World Health Organization. 2010. Managing the Public health Impacts of Natural Resource Activities: A Framework for National and Local Health Authorities.
  75. World Health Organization. 2016. Household Air Pollution and Health (WHO Fact Sheet No. 292 February 2016).
  76. Yeo, S. 2017. Clean Energy: The Challenge of Achieving a Just Transition for Workers (Carbon Brief).

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Energy Law InstituteQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations