Decarbonization and Energy Justice for a Low-Carbon Economy
Daniel Nyberg (executive guest editor) | University of Queensland | Australia | email@example.com
Raphael Heffron | The University of Pau and the Pays de l'Adour | France | firstname.lastname@example.org Ralitza Nikolaeva | University of St Andrews | UK | email@example.com Overseeing EditorMariano (Pitosh) Heyden | Monash University | Australia | firstname.lastname@example.org
Special issue information:
Motivation for special issue
Energy justice requires the application of fairness and equality across the whole energy life-cycle (from extraction to production, to operation and supply, and to waste management and decommissioning) (Sovacool & Dworkin, 2015). The power of coal, gas and oil industries is one of the biggest obstacles to decarbonize the global economy. However, decarbonization is not restricted only to power grids, heating buildings, or transportation; the pervasiveness of oil in everyday products (plastic, textiles, packaging, pharmaceuticals, etc.) is such that we can expect tremendous resistance from micro to macro levels. Consequently, justice questions would be fraught with dilemmas and paradoxes. Such complex tasks have sparked a call for equitable deep decarbonization (Spurlock et al., 2022). Thus, there is a need for imaginative leadership that is prepared to tackle unprecedented change and restructuring resulting from climate and technological disruption. This includes the big challenge of human rights looming for energy multinationals which is also a topic in its infancy in the business literature (Heffron, 2021).
The aim of the special issue is to jump-start the conversation in business disciplines on the topics of decarbonization, energy justice, and just transition. The paucity of research on these topics in business and management journals does not correspond to the graveness of the problem of climate change (Nyberg & Wright, 2022). Yet, the world's ambition to stay on track to net zero emissions by 2060 requires a complete overhaul of the energy sector leading to transformations in society, institutions, and consumer habits.
While global institutions and nations insist on avoiding the repetition of energy injustices of the past, business research has largely failed to recognize the importance of energy as an existential building block of business and society and how justice (equality, equity, fairness, and inclusiveness) is vital to its performance. Such a gap demands urgent attention, since the pending transition to net zero economies will have profound effects on people, organizations, and societies. Indeed, energy as a sector globally is estimated to be around 10% of global GDP and as such needs transformative change given it is responsible for nearly 80% of greenhouse gas emissions (according to the latest IPCC report).
The imperative of justice and decarbonization is becoming an issue of utmost strategic importance and risk management for all types of organizations. How will decarbonization efforts alter business models, risk calculations, accountability, organizational networks, marketing, employee training and relations, business performance, operational resilience, stakeholder relations, cost accounting, and every other possible aspect of business and management? The major concerns lie with the distribution of all resources within a market system, the systemic exclusion of non-market actors, and the neglect of negative externalities. The scope of the challenge arguably requires an interdisciplinary approach and we see opportunities for cross-pollination within a variety of business disciplines as between business and geography, environmental science and political science, to name a few. Prominent examples of such collaborations are the study of decision alternatives for zero-emissions logistics (Deveci et al., 2022), the use of material flow analysis for managing end of life photovoltaic e-waste (Gautam et al., 2022), optimization in the automotive sector to meet emission regulations (Rubio et al., 2020) and enabling the circular economy (Langley et al., 2023). Another identified area of interest is the translation of decarbonization policy originating at supranational, national, and regional levels to business practices – what is the role of regulatory and monitoring bodies as well as NGOs and consultants in the diffusion and implementation of policy decisions? Thus, we invite research with different analytical levels, or a combination of levels.
We are looking for contributions on topics related to decarbonization and we are particularly interested in the role of fossil fuels companies (Nisar et al., 2016), their networks, and institutional investors and the repercussions to societies and social justice. Due to the complexity of climate change, we are interested in the ethical lenses of key decision-makers in organizations with large GHG emissions as well as financial institutions directing the investment flows. Various energy solutions are emerging in the race towards a net-zero economy from all sectors: decarbonization of the power grids and transportation, energy storage, circular economy, hydrogen, grid-interactive buildings (Arent et al., 2022). How are decisions made regarding energy investments (Blondiau & Reuter, 2019)? Which of the new technologies will have staying power and become standards in the industry? What is the role of geopolitics and global conflicts in energy related questions (Sheth & Uslay, 2023)? We are interested in interdisciplinary contributions engaging management scholars with other disciplines where the questions of energy transition and energy justice have been studied more extensively (e.g. energy, technology studies, anthropology, law, geopolitics) as we expect such collaborations to bring forth richer theoretical contributions. A non-exhaustive list of questions includes:
What are the replacement cycles of energy technologies and how can they be managed? Are disruptive innovations more likely to overlook justice questions?
What are the social costs of energy technologies replacement and what hinders the change? How is the path dependency on fossil fuels entrenched and how can new energy paths be created (i.e., such as for 2030 and 2050)?
How can theories of ethics and justice inform energy transition management? What are the roles of business scholars and management theories in explaining and assisting in the energy transition?
What are the organizational risks associated with an energy transition and how are they managed? How are financial, reputational, and legislative risks managed with a ‘justice’ lens? How will corporate strategy align with justice and decarbonization?
How do new energy solutions emerge? Who is the driving force – business, government, consumers? Are new energy solutions more likely to be driven by need, savings, ingenuity, or environmental concerns?
How do novel solutions to climate change start and how can they be institutionalized? How do organizations make sense of energy transitions and how are strategies developed to align the organization with planetary boundaries?
How will society balance the risk, reward, and responsibility issues within the energy sector in a ‘just’ way?
How will decarbonization change consumer behavior and habits? How do environmental behaviors change and what are the triggers/barriers?
How can business scholars inform what happens beyond the energy sector and ensure that there is an overall societal-wide just transition to a low-carbon economy?