Tensions, capabilities, and justice in climate change mitigation of fossil fuels (2019)

Nathan Wood and Katy Roelich (2019). Tensions, capabilities, and justice in climate change mitigation of fossil fuels, Energy Research & Social Science, 52, 114-122

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2019.02.014

In order to mitigate the well-being impacts of climate change effectively, we must reduce our use of fossil fuels. However, many contemporary forms of well-being attainment still depend heavily on the use of fossil fuel derived energy. Therefore, certain necessary forms of climate change mitigation are likely to conflict with current means of well-being attainment in many groups and societies. In particular our concern is that certain forms of mitigation, which target lifestyle choices, consumption behaviour, and technological choices, do and will have disproportionate impacts on certain vulnerable groups in society e.g. households in fuel poverty or individuals with particular disabilities. It is evident that climate change mitigation discourse has only sparsely integrated well-being thought. We argue that a fuller integration of well-being into mitigation thinking could help avoid exacerbating current and future well-being conflicts that will arise between climate change mitigation and fossil fuel derived use. To help achieve this, we reason that climate change mitigation and fossil fuel derived use must not be viewed separately but by their relationships to well-being. We articulate the individual processes of fossil fuel derived energy use, climate change mitigation and well-being attainment in more detail, presenting their relationships to one another in the form of tensions. We present a capabilities conception of well-being that we argue is best suited for operationalising well-being with regards to fully capturing these tensions. We then develop a conceptual framework through a theoretical synthesis of existing on well-being, energy, and climate change, which illustrates how these tensions arise. This framework also serves to illustrate how a change in one process will affect the others. We outline how this framework can help illustrate the points at which misguided climate change mitigation can conflict with current means of attaining well-being from fossil derived energy. We then conclude that the use of this framework and further integration of well-being thought could help avoid and ameliorate well-being conflicts when developing future climate change mitigation.

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