E2 Geopolitics and Global Energy Security

Understanding of energy security relies on geographical diversification of energy supplies, sources and stability of prices.

Since the extraction and burning of coal started, energy is powering the world economy. Depletion of stocks and global energy supplies make countries vulnerable to disruptive events, no matter where they take place. The first oil crisis of 1973 or the invasion of Iraq in 2003 exemplified the consequences for nations when energy supply became uncertain. Therefore, national security must be interpreted in terms of economic vulnerability, which is linked to dependence on energy. Although energy security focuses on energy vulnerability rather than on energy imports, there may be economic and political incentives to reduce energy imports. As fears about the stability of the world's energy resources grow, policy makers may integrate these security concerns into the climate change policies. If policy makers promise incentives for domestic energy sources and discourage energy imports, they have to choose different climate policies. In addition to the inefficiencies in carbon abatement policies, there may also be a global inefficiency associated with a country's energy imports and exports. If governments seek to minimize their own costs rather than the world's costs, they may choose substantially different abatement policies than are assumed in most climate change studies. Whether a country agrees to a target for a given amount of carbon abatement (focusing on quantity) or to reach a given marginal benefit associated with carbon abatement (focusing on the carbon price), it has an incentive to choose policies that deviate from those which would minimize world cost. Rather than simply abating on the basis of carbon intensity, the country may cut emissions more with those imported fuels and less with exported ones.

This shows that climate change can be a geopolitical problem and the potential ramifications of its impacts on security are significant. Under these circumstances, a stage can be set for intense competition for resources among countries seeking to secure their energy supply by diversifying sources and areas of origin. The spatial politics of reducing GHG emissions should be looked into through an overview of the positions of the main actors in negotiations on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). These positions cannot be understood merely as the product of rational choices made by disembodied states. For this, a subaltern and class-based view of climate geopolitics is necessary that stresses on a local and social problem as much as it is a global environmental problem is necessary.

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