Bringing Social Equity into Low-carbon Investment: why it matters and emerging lessons.
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This paper explores why social equity matters for a successful transition to a low-carbon energy economy. The paper first locates this discussion in the evolution of literature on environmental sustainability and energy which increasingly recognises the social, political and institutional dimensions of the concept. It then presents five arguments on why social equity should matter in strategies to accelerate and manage low-carbon development, ranging from moral arguments linked to quality of life and community, to the strategic and tactical imperatives of social equity for achieving carbon reductions. Finally, it offers three key strategies — ownership, governance and distributed benefit — for ensuring that low-carbon initiatives in general and community energy projects specifically, achieve social equity outcomes. The authors draw on three examples of how new forms of organisation and partnership can be structured to achieve both low-carbon and social goals: an enterprise supporting community-based wind farms in South Africa; an energy partnership between a community, local council and charity in Easterside, Middlesbrough, UK; and a community energy initiative in Portland, Oregon (USA). The paper concludes by drawing out principles for practice and policy.
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