Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Kim Talus
Chapter 14: Policy, law, and the actualization of the right of access to energy services
There are currently about 2.7 billion people in developing countries that can be classified as energy poor. They rely on biomass - wood, charcoal, tree leaves, crop residues, and animal dung - for their cooking needs, using inefficient devices that are extremely deleterious to health. If nothing is done, projections are that this number will rise to 2.8 billion in 2030. Again, there are 1.4 billion people who lack access to electricity, relying on biomass for heating and lighting needs. Eighty per cent of these reside in rural areas in developing countries, with the majority in sub-Saharan Africa and the developing countries of Asia. Not only is this a very unacceptable situation, it amounts to a negation of two principles which remain controversial in some quarters but which are clearly regarded as human rights by the United Nations and possibly all the developing states. These are the rights to development, and of access to energy services, both of which are now found to be inextricably intertwined. However, irrespective of opinions on the status of the above rights, there is a clear realization of the existence of great poverty, the need to address it at global and national levels, and the knowledge that activities to reduce poverty on the part of developed countries are not acts of altruism but of enlightened self-interest, as will be discussed shortly.
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