Report

Time to wake up

September 30th 2014 - 11:15
In October 2014, European leaders will decide on the EU climate and energy policy (CEP) framework for 2030. The proposed framework by the European Commission sets new targets for renewable energy, reducing green house emissions, and increasing energy efficiency.

The public debate centers on whether the proposal is ambitious enough. Puzzlingly, the geopolitical dimension of European climate and energy policies remains underexposed. This HCSS report analyzes the geopolitical consequences of continuing European reliance on fossil fuels (‘business as usual’) versus a gradual European transition towards 80% or more renewable energy.

Policy makers deciding on Europe’s energy future should take the geopolitical consequences of climate and energy policies firmly into account. CEP will influence the extent to which the EU will face security challenges brought about by climate change. Resource scarcity, changes in agricultural productivity, migration flows, and humanitarian catastrophes caused by climate change heighten the risk of social and political instability, as well as conflict, especially in volatile regions.

The EU 2030 policy framework also has the potential to either perpetuate or transform the structural interdependencies encapsulated in the energy trade relations of the fossil fuel economy. Continued dependence on fossil fuels harnesses several risks for the EU, ranging from price volatility, supply risks associated with dependence on imports from politically unstable regions, gradual depletion of easily recoverable and economically viable resources, and global competition over available supplies. A European transition to 80% or more renewable energy could decrease the EU’s energy dependence and make it less vulnerable to economic and political pressure of energy suppliers, such as Russia. In the medium term, however, decreasing oil and gas revenues may negatively affect the stability in rentier states, where autocratic regimes may no longer be able to finance the social contract with the population. Turmoil in these countries creates new security challenges for the EU.

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Erik Frinking is the Director of the Strategic Futures Program at HCSS. He holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from Leiden University. For almost twenty years, he has been involved in addressing high-level, complex policy issues for a wide variety of European countries and international organizations. Mr. Frinking worked for more than 13 years at the Leiden branch of the RAND Corporation, where he was director of the Education, Science & Technology, and Innovation program.

Sijbren de Jong is a Strategic Analyst at HCSS and lecturer in Geo-Economics at Leiden University, The Hague. He has a PhD in EU external energy security relations from the University of Leuven and holds degrees in Economic Geography (MSc) from the University of Groningen and Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding (MA) from the University of Leuven. His geographical areas of expertise include Russia, Central Asia and the Caspian Sea Region; Central and Eastern Europe; and the Western Balkans.

Tim Sweijs is a Senior Strategist. He is the initiator, creator, and author of numerous studies, methodologies, and tools for research projects in horizon scanning, conflict analysis, international and national security risk assessment, and capability development. He has led multicenter research projects for both private and public sector organizations – including the European Commission and various European governments.

Willem Oosterveld is a Strategic Analyst at HCSS. He holds degrees in political science, law and history, having studied in Amsterdam, Leiden, Paris, New York and Harvard. A former Fulbright scholar, he earned a PhD in the history of international law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.