Energy poverty, is arguably the most pervasive and crippling threat society faces today. Lack of access impacts several billion people, with immediate health, educational, economic, and social damages. Furthermore, how this problem is addressed will result in the largest accelerant of global pollution, or the largest opportunity to pivot away from fossil-fuels onto the needed clean energy path. In a clear example of the power of systems thinking, energy poverty and climate change together present a dual crisis of energy injustice along gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic grounds, which has been exacerbated if not caused outright by a failure of the wealthy to see how tightly coupled is our collective global fate if addressing climate change fairly and inclusively does not become an immediate, actionable, priority.
While debate exists on the optimal path or paths to wean our economy from fossil fuels, there is no question that technically we have today a sufficient knowledge and technological foundation to launch and to even complete the decarbonisation (IPCC, 2011). Critically needed is an equally powerful social narrative to accelerate the clean energy transition. Laudato Si’ provides a compelling formulation of the injustice that is both greed and pollution, but an ongoing outreach and partnership effort is needed to truly leverage its powerful message.
In this essay we present examples across scales of the evolving knowledge base needed to build universal clean energy access. This leads to a formulation of an action agenda to defeat energy poverty and energy injustice.