Environmental Justice in the Renewable Energy Transition

Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law (University of Missouri School of Law), Forthcoming

Inaugural Symposium Issue, Environmental Justice Issues in Sustainable Development, 2012, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012 Last revised: 5 Oct 2012

See all articles by Uma Outka

Uma Outka

University of Kansas - School of Law

Date Written: September 27, 2012


This article considers environmental justice in the specific context of renewable energy goals. As a key component of sustainable development and a central concern for green economy advocates, renewable energy is uniquely situated on the policy spectrum, tying local communities that host renewable projects to global strategies for curbing unsustainable warming trends. The fact that climate change will disproportionately affect the poorest members of society underscores the importance of sustainable development to environmental justice. Yet, early on, some anticipated the potential for conflict between sustainable development and environmental justice, predicting the broader sustainable development agenda might prove insensitive to environmental justice concerns. And indeed, in the renewable energy context, the broad-stroke compatibility between renewable energy goals and environmental justice may obscure the potential for conflicts in implementation. At the same time, I argue, renewable energy offers unique opportunities both to avoid environmental injustice and to affirmatively advance environmental justice as well.

Part I of the article addresses the role of renewable energy in sustainable development and its potential for advancing environmental justice objectives. With a focus on the U.S. and electricity generation, Part II evaluates environmental justice in the related contexts of renewable energy policy and project development. Environmental justice remains relevant to how energy facilities are sited, but also bears on how “renewable energy” or “clean energy” is defined in law. More broadly, it is proving relevant to issues of exclusion and access to renewable energy benefits, including those associated with a “green economy.” The article concludes by addressing possibilities for enhancing, and avoiding conflicts between, what are, at their most basic, compatible goals: renewable energy expansion for sustainable development and environmental justice.

Keywords: environmental justice, renewable energy, solar, wind, biomass, sustainable development, green economy

Suggested Citation

Outka, Uma, Environmental Justice in the Renewable Energy Transition (September 27, 2012). Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law (University of Missouri School of Law), Forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2153118

Uma Outka (Contact Author)

University of Kansas - School of Law ( email )

Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.ku.edu/faculty/uma-outka

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