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Energy Transitions Research at the University of Cambridge

Platform on International Energy Governance event ‘An Inclusive Energy Transition? Global low-carbon strategies and their discontents’

The Platform on International Energy Governance held its first annual event on 22 June 2017. Entitled ‘An Inclusive Energy Transition? Global low-carbon strategies and their discontents’, the event brought together over 40 leading and early career academics and practitioners to discuss how the costs and benefits of the energy transition can be best allocated and how participatory mechanisms can facilitate public engagement in the context of the energy transition.


The event was co-organised by Dr Leslie-Anne Duvic-Paoli and Prof J.E. Viñuales. It was the result of a collaboration between the Cambridge Centre on Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, as part of its project on the ‘law of energy transitions’ funded by the Philomathia Foundation, and the Energy@Cambridge’s Grand Challenge called ‘In Search of “Good” Energy Policy’, whose aim is to identify optimal practices and principles for designing and implementing the best possible energy policies. Cambridge’s international law centre, the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, also supported the event.


The workshop addressed the following two questions:

(1)   How can the costs and benefits of the energy transition be best allocated?

The re-design of our energy systems has a strong potential to bring positive benefits (in relation to health, revenue flows and employment), but associated costs cannot be under-estimated. A fundamental challenge lies in the fact that negative impacts tend to be disproportionately borne by individuals and communities already in disadvantageous situations. The workshop therefore explored how the integration of normative considerations of legitimacy and fairness in policy-making processes could ensure that the transition to a sustainable economy does not create further social inequalities, and, on the contrary, contributes to building a more inclusive society.


(2)   How should participatory mechanisms be designed to facilitate public engagement in the context of the energy transition?

Accountability of decision-makers and transparency of their decisions is necessary to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy is inclusive and fair, taking into account the different interests at play. If not, at a time of strong public discontent towards decision-makers, there is a high risk that unfair and undemocratic decisions in the energy sector will further alienate the public, and will inevitably jeopardise the energy transition that cannot succeed without public engagement. The issue is not merely one of social acceptability of new energy projects and policies but one which requires mobilising individuals and communities to take action towards moving to a low-carbon economy. Empowering people to participate in policy formulation ensures the accountability of all duty bearers for their actions.  While it is imperative to reconceive public engagement, significant uncertainties remain regarding how to best involve the public, which the workshop sought to explore.

The full conference report is available to download on the Platform’s website here.

The organisers are grateful to the Philomathia Foundation and the Energy@Cambridge initiative for funding the event.