Traumatic Decarbonization

abstract illustration representing peace

Peace processes and political settlements in fragile, oil-producing states can often be described as ‘carbon compacts’: oil revenues are central to national economies, the functioning of political systems, and provide the discretionary funds needed by politicians to secure and retain power. Peace agreements may be structured around allocating revenue streams to those who have leverage over oil production and funds, and when oil revenues dry up, these states are plunged into turmoil. We call this ‘traumatic decarbonization.’

Current global energy-related academic and policy efforts emphasize and encourage the shift from a carbon-based energy to sustainable sources, and many attendant issues (shifts in labor markets, economic impacts, scientific and technological gaps and shifts, environmental consequences, etc.). However, there is little to no attention on the political impacts of such shifts, especially in fragile states that lack the fiscal or institutional capacity to plan for energy transition. This is a crucial oversight since theory and experience suggest that traumatic decarbonization will impact political dynamics in violent monetized political systems, likely in ways that have negative implications for the use of violence, and undermine the prospects for peace and the durability of political settlements. Through a series of country studies, this project explores the issues of traumatic decarbonization.

Researchers who authored reports as part of this program include: Shahla Al-Kli, Katrina Burgess, Javier Corrales, Joshua Craze, Tarun Gopalakrishnan, Luke Patey, and Jan Poposil.

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