MISTRA Geopolitics: Preventive foreign policy responses to the geopolitical implications of environmental change

Planet earth from the space at night . Some elements of this image furnished by NASA

Responding to long-term energy transition trends and the corresponding geopolitical shifts will be an important foreign policy challenge in the decades to come. By considering potential scenarios ahead of time and adopting a preventive foreign policy approach that seeks to both facilitate decarbonisation efforts and mitigate associated security risks with key partners, countries can pave the way for long-term, sustainable international energy cooperation – and thus support the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For the European Union and its Member States, energy relations form a key part of bilateral relations with other countries. As such, it will be crucial to consider in advance how the declines in European fossil fuel consumption may affect existing partnerships, as well as how the expansion of renewable energies could create new interdependencies.

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is funding a research consortium to examine these and other ways in which environmental change interacts with social, political, and economic forces. Uncertainties continue to grow, and broad geopolitical shifts will likely have far-reaching implications for global governance and the pursuit of sustainable development. The dynamics between geopolitics, human security and environmental change form the basis of Mistra Geopolitics. The research partners include adelphi, E3G, Stockholm Environment Institute as well as Stockholm University, Lund University, Uppsala University, Linköping University.

To explore the geopolitical questions raised about decarbonization, adelphi will study for specific country cases – such as Russia or China – how new and established dependencies may evolve, and how the resulting changes could affect foreign policy at bilateral and regional level. The aim is to identify core transition pathways, and propose preventive foreign policy responses that minimize security threats, manage geopolitical change and facilitate the low-carbon energy transition.