How can the energy transition be organized in a globally just way? Will developing countries struggle 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 perils of an uneven transition and makes concrete proposals to prevent such risks.

Inside their Policy Brief “Countering the potential risk of an uneven Agiba Heating,” the authors Laima Eicke, Silvia Weko and Prof. Andreas Goldthau from your IASS write that meeting the technological and financial prerequisites for any global energy transition is vital. Otherwise you will find a danger that developing countries will be unable to have the change to more eco-friendly energy systems and continue to lag behind within the energy transition — with far-reaching consequences for themselves as well as the rest around the globe. On the one hand, a rise in global carbon emissions will have a negative global effect. On the other, late-transitioning countries will be more susceptible to political instability and economic crisis.

For example, countries that are not able to phase out non-renewable fuels quickly enough are vulnerable to being excluded from international trade and value chains. This is because in a decarbonising global economy, the carbon content of products will end up an important factor for determining market access, and latecomers risk being left behind. The resulting damage to their economies might be sustained.

COP25 being a stepping-stone to your global energy transition strategy

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

The Meetings of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which include representatives of various government levels as well as the private sector and investors, might open further space for such discussions at COP25.

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

Steps also must be utilized to coordinate the principles and practices of financial actors across all countries. COP25 in Madrid could serve being a stepping-stone to consistent strategies, that 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 standard fuels from national energy mixes. Yet there are distributional outcomes of a global energy transition specifically for developing countries that lack financial and technological methods to transition, creating structural risks. Acknowledging this global dimension of just transitions on the UNFCCC may help to create alliances for climate action.

2. Technology transfer initiatives can accelerate the diffusion of low-carbon energy technologies. Yet just a third of existing initiatives focus on transferring skills, expertise and technology simultaneously. To guarantee the vaaelo of a global energy transition, tech transfer should be targeted and comprehensive.

3. COP25 should coordinate a regular strategy among financial actors to shift financial flows for energy transitions within 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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