The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition and Opportunities for International Cooperation

Windmills on a mountain range over the clouds. Photo by Fabian Wiktor on Unsplash.

This Readout and Recommendations summarizes the main conclusions and insights from the Geopolitics of the Energy Transition convening organized by E3G and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security with support from the Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in Tarrytown, New York. It should not be assumed that every attendee subscribes to all of its recommendations, observations, and conclusions.

The objectives of the workshop were to identify the key implications of the energy transition for current geopolitical relationships, form a body of understanding, and establish a new agenda for the geopolitics of the transition.

The Salience of the Energy Transition for Geopolitics and International Cooperation

The world has started the shift toward a new energy system, ushering in a new era of geopolitics. This raises questions about key assumptions for how countries relate, in terms of economic ties, political alignments, and interdependencies. As efforts to act on climate change increase, there is a need to look at all these elements together to understand the emerging geopolitics of the global energy transition.

This includes examining how geopolitics and the energy transition affect one another. The war in Ukraine and US-China tensions have changed the dynamics of the energy transition. The European Union (EU) and the United States have adopted industrial policies to accelerate the transition, leading to global consequences on energy security and commodity price volatility. Yet energy transition and climate policy perspectives are currently siloed from or borrowed for geopolitical policymaking based on many assumptions from a global fossil fuel energy system.

Using various framing lenses to assess geopolitics—major powers and regional blocs, Global North-Global South relations, and transnational and social change—allows a richer and more holistic inquiry into what the geopolitics of the energy transition means. The current conversation mostly concerns climate and energy, with slightly more understanding of finance and trade, and the security perspective is practically absent. Examining the interrelation of climate, energy, finance, trade, and security altogether provides a better basis for policy directions toward greater peace and security as the world transitions.

Themes such as fragmentation, major power competition, and nationalism have gained traction, but there is a need to examine the underlying assumptions and dynamics of these themes, as well as set aside space for cooperation. The US-China relationship and relationships between major trading blocs are framed by competition, with fewer ideas emerging on the vital necessity of cooperation. Most of the commentary on competition that seeks balance merely comes across as how to not let things get out of hand. The current geopolitical narrative leans heavily on competition, but there must be a correction if the necessity of the energy transition is to steer geopolitics in a way that avoids runaway climate catastrophe.

Read the full report here.

This report is also published by the Stanley Center here: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition and Opportunities for International Cooperation | Stanley Center for Peace and Security.


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