Geographies in Transition

Jewellord T. Nem Singh in Phenomenal World:

Though it failed to resolve a number of contentious issues, the COP26 meeting in Glasgow solidified a consensus around the need for a global transition to clean energy. Implicated in this transition is the wide-scale adoption of renewables: we must build larger wind turbines, produce more electric vehicles, and phase down coal factories in electrifying rapidly growing cities. Climate negotiations often refer to the “common but differentiated responsibility” that countries bear in promoting this transformation. But in reality, its protagonists are European governments and high-tech manufacturing companies involved in the production of renewable goods. And their policies have a cost—if the world meets the targets of the Paris Agreement, demand is likely to increase by 40 percent for copper and rare earth elements (REES), 60–70 percent for cobalt and nickel, and almost 90 percent for lithium over the next two decades.

The EU’s proposed Green Energy Deal secures critical minerals through open international markets, necessitating mineral extraction at a faster and more intense pace. But if it is to mitigate or overturn historical imbalances between North and South, the clean-energy transition cannot reproduce the same extractive relations underpinning industrial production. In what follows, I examine the green transition both as an opportunity and a challenge for resource-rich countries in the Global South. Importantly, I argue that we need to look beyond traditional growth-oriented industrial policies and the successful “catch up” of East Asian economies to develop inclusive and sustainable green development.

More here.