Report on the geopolitics of decarbonisations shows new pathways for EU foreign policy

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To decarbonize Europe a reshaping of EU external relations is key. The report shows possible pathways for cooperation, and presents five areas of action to address the foreign policy challenges of decarbonisation: trade, finance, education, security – in addition to climate and energy policy.


With the European Green Deal, the European Commission has committed to accelerating decarbonisation in Europe as a major priority. This also needs to be adequately reflected in European external relations, as the comprehensive study “Geopolitics of decarbonisation – Reshaping European foreign relations” – launched today by the Berlin-based think tank adelphi and the Institute for European Studies at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) – shows. “With the incoming German EU Presidency, there is a real opportunity to pave the way for a new era of EU foreign policy – and to begin systematically reshaping EU external relations so that they reflect the priorities of the Green Deal” Dennis Tänzler, Director of International Climate Policy at adelphi and one of the lead authors, states.

The geopolitical implications of decarbonisation: case studies for six countries

This report, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office, contributes to the emerging literature on the geopolitical implications of decarbonisation and energy transition processes, with a specific focus on the EU’s foreign policies and external relations, and six case studies of countries where global decarbonisation processes are likely to have major repercussions. “Under the Paris Agreement, governments have committed to phasing out greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades. This decarbonisation process will not only have far-reaching implications domestically but is likely to also contribute to profound geopolitical shifts,” as Sebastian Oberthür, Professor at the Free University of Brussels and also one of the lead authors, explains.

The case studies – Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Qatar – revealed a variety of ways in which fossil fuel exporters or, more generally, carbon-dependent economies may be vulnerable to the global transition away from coal, oil, natural gas and other emission-intensive products that should see falling demand under decarbonisation. “Our analysis shows that even in countries where falling fossil fuel demand will pose major challenges, such as Nigeria and Azerbaijan, there are multiple entry points for the EU to develop fruitful external relations beyond fossil fuels and support economic diversification and sustainable development,” notes Emily Wright, Project Manager at adelphi and the third lead author of the report.

EU plays key role in the global transformation

The report identified several challenges and opportunities that the foreign policy community should take into consideration when striving to make the European Green Deal a part of EU external relations. As a global power and leader on climate action, the EU has an important role to play in meeting these challenges. With the Green Deal now being implemented in the context of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more pressing to consider what the EU foreign policy community should take into consideration when developing and implementing the deal’s external dimensions. The report outlines specific pathways for the cooperation between the EU and the case study countries and concludes by setting out five areas of action to address the foreign policy challenges of decarbonisation within the framework of the European Green Deal, including trade, finance, education and security – in addition to climate and energy policy.

Download: Full report (high resolution, 10 MB), full report (low resolution, 5 MB) and Executive Summary

Contact: Dennis Tänzler