Document Type



Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy




Sustainable Development ("SD")--an expression of distributive justice--is the foundational premise of international energy and environmental law. It posits that international answers to environmental and energy problems cannot be pursued as independent and autonomous objectives but must be addressed within the framework of economic and social development. SD has been politically institutionalized in the Millennium Development Goals and a plethora of significant international instruments. Perhaps more importantly from a legal standpoint, SD is unequivocally codified, in the most widely accepted international energy and environmental treaties. This Article affirms the importance and continuing applicability of SD to the "other" third of the world afflicted by energy problems who live on less than a dollar or two a day. Two-thirds of the world, those in developed and advanced developing countries, are high energy (fossil fuel) users who are responsible for problems of global warming. By contrast, the primary energy relied on by the "other" third of the world, numbering around two billion peoples, is biomass-based fire. The kind of fire they rely upon fails to supply the majority of their basic energy needs. These fires also cause indoor pollution leading to over a million and a half premature deaths per year, primarily of women and children. However, the last five to ten years have witnessed the growth of a different worldwide movement concerned with global warming and climate change. The singular focus of the climate change movement is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, the objectives of carbon dioxide reduction and SD can and do diverge. Despite a ritualistic bow to SD, the global warming movement has generally ignored the energy oppressed poor ("EOP"). They have done so because the EOP use hardly any fossil fuels and their carbon dioxide emissions are less than negligible. Instead, climate change and global warming advocates and decision makers have concentrated their attention only on high energy users in the developed world, and advanced developing countries like China and India. The other third of the world--the "EOP"--have been ignored. This Article explains why energy justice ("EJ"), which provides the philosophical and jurisprudential underpinnings of SD, demands that the developed and high energy world should act to address the condition of the EOP. Such action must begin with tackling indoor air pollution. Providentially, doing so will also have the co-benefit of mitigating black carbon which is the second most important cause of global warming. But actions based on EJ and SD should extend far beyond that single measure and calls for sustainable energy that will enable the EOP to develop, and break the bonds of poverty and energy deprivation. The right of the EOP to SD must be re-affirmed.