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.

Download the report with the button on the right.

Erik Frinking is Strategic Advisor Security and Cyber 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.
Dr. Tim Sweijs is the Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. He is the initiator, creator and author of numerous studies, methodologies, and tools for horizon scanning, early warning, conflict analysis, national security risk assessment, and strategy and capability development. Tim has lectured at universities and military academies around the world. His main research interest concerns the changing character of contemporary conflict. Tim is a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Defence Academy and an Affiliate at the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld is a non-resident senior fellow at HCSS. His areas of expertise include the politics of the Middle East, conflict analysis and peacebuilding, as well as law and development. He holds degrees in political science, international law, and history, having studied in Amsterdam, Leiden, Paris and New York, and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. A former Fulbright scholar, he earned a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.