The Geopolitics of Climate Change

The EU vs Climate Change n. 3

It is a matter of fact that Climate change will modify profoundly existing ecological equilibria and patterns that have been in place since the dawn of humanity, even if we stopped polluting right now. What is more uncertain however, is the nature and magnitude of the threats this will present to current political institutions. Many geopolitical tensions are already born out of climate change or exacerbated by it. This is why it is fundamental for the European Union to analyse these threats even as it outlines its plan to go carbon neutral by 2050.

1- Renewables and power politics

The EU is a net importer of energy. This represents neither a weakness nor a geopolitical sin in itself as other major powers also share this characteristic; what makes us vulnerable is Europe’s heavy reliance on foreign production, which sustains more than half of our energy consumption (58% in 2018). Its bulk is composed of crude oil, solid fuel and natural gas. Needless to say, our main supplier is the Russian Federation. Moscow is our biggest trade partner in all of the three markets listed above, covering 29.2% of our crude oil imports, 40.1% for natural gas and 42.3% for solid fuel. We are used to Russia’s threats of cutting the energy supplies as a retaliation to our compliance with America’s russophobic strategy, ever since international sanctions from the US and the EU against Moscow were first enacted in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea. The descendant of the Soviet Union has been using for years our dependency on its resources to avoid harsher measures against its foreign policy. However, the threats aren’t credible as the Eurasian Giant depends on the European market for its exports as much as we depend on it for our imports.

Nonetheless, energetic independence is a key element in becoming a powerful international actor. Unfortunately Europe’s natural endowment makes this achievement virtually impossible; and yet, there is a way to shield us from international blackmailing: diversification. There is an upside to all of this: the best way to diversify our consumption of energy is to carry on with the EU’s renewed climate activism and reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Renewable energies, (almost) everyone’s favorite solution to climate change can also put us on the right path towards greater diversification. As of 2019, renewable energies account for 19.7% of our consumption: not so bad, but we can do much better. Hydro power and wind power have the largest energy production share among renewables, they are also entirely producible within the EU’s borders. Solar power is trickier: while its environmental benefits are undisputed, China currently dominates the market of solar panels. In fact, the materials needed for the production of solar panels are extremely rare and found mainly in China. We will have to carefully ration our consumption of solar energy as to contain our reliance on Beijing, nonetheless this energy source is key both to the green revolution and to European independence.

A few considerations on nuclear power. Despite the problems it creates with the management of radioactive waste, nuclear energy represents a far better alternative to carbon fuels as it emits no greenhouse emission. The strategic downside with nuclear energy is the scarce availability of natural uranium in Europe, but at least we don’t have to resort to any rival power for its