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Normative guidance for energy governance: sustainable development and human rights

Vincent Bellinkx and Wouter Vandenhole

Keywords: sustainable development law; human rights law; energy governance; environmental integration; participation; normative conflict

The production of energy and access to energy services is key to (economic) development and to the fulfilment of socio-economic human rights. Yet the world is also facing extreme environmental challenges largely due to energy production and consumption. Accordingly, well-constructed energy governance is crucial in resolving environmental challenges to preserve adequate natural resources for future generations. This article explores two normative frameworks with the potential to guide energy governance towards social change and towards a just and future-proof energy governance system. First, this article gives an overview of five challenges energy governance is facing: (1) lack of participation mechanisms; (2) the absence of environmental policy integration; (3) unsatisfactory protection of the interests of future generations; (4) challenges of availability and accessibility of energy for everyone; and (5) lack of adaptivity and reflexivity. Second, this article introduces and outlines the emerging concept of sustainable development law (SDL) and the more matured framework of human rights law (HRL). In the third section of this article, we discuss how these two normative frameworks can address the five energy governance challenges, before exploring how to balance and prioritize between sustainable development law and human rights law when/if they conflict with each other.

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