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close this bookEnergy as it relates to Poverty Alleviation and Environmental Protection (UNDP, 1998, 36 p.)
close this folderKey Energy Issues as They Relate to Poverty and Environment
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInefficient and environmentally harmful energy use
View the documentFirst-cost effect generates poverty-energy-environment lock-in
View the documentFor the poorest of the poor, small improvements in commercial energy services produce large welfare benefits
View the documentConventional energy paradigm contributes to perpetuation of poverty
Open this folder and view contentsEnvironmental problems such as urban air pollution and climate change affect people living in poverty more directly due to current patterns of energy usage
View the documentInordinate expenditure on energy


Since energy plays a substantial role in the everyday lives of people, and poverty describes the condition of people who are denied the opportunities for a tolerable existence, it is not surprising that there are multiple links between energy, poverty and the environment. The production and use of energy have environmental consequences to which the poor are especially vulnerable. People living in poverty have benefited very little from conventional energy policies and their implementation. More than 2 billion people continue to cook using traditional fuels, while 1.5-2 billion people lack electricity. At the same time, it has become widely recognised that development depends on access to appropriate energy services.

People living in poverty are often disproportionately the victims of the environmental effects related to energy, even while they are usually perceived as being the cause of worsening environmental problems. They are placed in that role because they a) use inefficient and relatively more polluting energy carriers and systems than those who are better off; and b) are often forced to engage in hazardous or ecologically disruptive activities to obtain energy services. Most importantly, however, they lack the political power to help foster institutional change that could address their own poverty or effectively combat the environmental harm caused by the mainstream energy economy, for instance, power producers. Broadly, six features of the relationship of energy with poverty and environment can be distinguished.