How can the energy transition be organized in a globally just way? Will developing countries find it difficult to transition to clean energy simply because they lack the financial and technical means? A new Policy Brief by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) focuses on the risks of an uneven transition and makes concrete proposals to avoid such risks.

In their Policy Brief “Countering the potential risk of an uneven Energy Transition Holland,” the authors Laima Eicke, Silvia Weko and Prof. Andreas Goldthau through the IASS write that meeting the technological and financial prerequisites for a global energy transition is essential. Otherwise there exists a danger that developing countries will be unable to create the change to more environmentally friendly energy systems and then lag behind in the energy transition — with far-reaching consequences by themselves as well as the rest of the world. On the one hand, a surge in global carbon emissions will have a negative global effect. On the other, late-transitioning countries could be more susceptible to political instability and financial meltdown.

As an example, countries that are unable to phase out standard fuels quickly enough are vulnerable to being excluded from international trade and value chains. The reason being in a decarbonising global economy, the carbon content of merchandise will become a key factor for determining market access, and latecomers risk being left behind. The resulting injury to their economies could be sustained.

COP25 as a stepping stone to your global energy transition strategy

To limit climatic change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, all countries should have equal chances to decarbonise their economies — and consistent strategies are essential for your to happen. As Laima Eicke, one of many study’s authors, highlights: “If the gap between early- and late-decarbonising countries widens, so too might the opportunity of disagreements, further slowing the transition.” To prevent that scenario, many countries need commitments for financial and technical assistance to accelerate their energy transition processes to the degree necessary for the Paris Agreement.

The Meetings of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, including representatives of numerous government levels as well as the private sector and investors, might open further space for these particular discussions at COP25.

Other international platforms, bilateral programmes, and private actors can also play a vital role. Initiatives like the NDC Partnership highlight the opportunity of aligning the activities of multiple actors in specific country contexts.

Steps also must be taken to coordinate the principles and practices of financial actors across all countries. COP25 in Madrid could serve as being a stepping-stone to consistent strategies, which will be crucial for developing countries as they update their NDCs in 2020 and for efforts to close the ambition gap.

The authors’ three recommendations:

1. Policy debates on ‘just transitions’ focus on the implications of phasing out fossil fuels from national energy mixes. Yet you can find distributional effects of a worldwide energy transition particularly for developing countries that lack financial and technological methods to transition, creating structural risks. Acknowledging this global dimension of just transitions at the UNFCCC may assist to create alliances for climate action.

2. Technology transfer initiatives can accelerate the diffusion of low-carbon energy technologies. Yet only a third of existing initiatives give attention to transferring skills, expertise and technology simultaneously. To be sure the vaaelo of any global energy transition, tech transfer has to be targeted and comprehensive.

3. COP25 should coordinate a consistent strategy among financial actors to shift financial flows for energy transitions in the Global South. Common guidelines for long-term risk assessments and an exchange of best practices for capacity development could leverage ambition inside the 2020 NDC updating processes.

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