A New Phase in EU Climate Geopolitics: Steps Forward and Back

Författare: Youngs Richard

For the EU, climate policy is a source of economic growth and modernisation, but also an integral part of its common foreign and security policy; its geopolitics. In this European Policy Analysis, Richard Youngs (University of Warwick) takes stock of the EU’s thinking and action on climate geopolitics, noting the impacts – positive and negative – of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (2023:8epa)

Climate policy plays a central role in what Ursula von der Leyen in 2019 described as a ‘geopolitical commission’. This reflects the reality that the climate-related crises within and beyond the EU have direct consequences on the population, and by extension on the stability and security of the union. It reflects too, the EU’s current dependence on third countries for the resources required for a green transition. Therefore, climate policy cannot be separated from a wider understanding of European geopolitical and strategic reality.   

In this new analysis for SIEPS, International Relations researcher Richard Youngs accounts for the Commission’s political ambitions and policy proposals on climate geopolitics. In addition, he examines how these ambitions and proposals have materialized and the different factors which affect the cohesiveness of EU climate-security policy.

Youngs goes on to highlight three areas where political developments are frustrating a successful merging of climate and geopolitics in a coherent security policy framework:  

  • Increased focus on national solutions and traditional security
    The EU has maintained its high climate policy ambitions despite the stresses caused by the Corona pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the war has also meant a stronger focus on national priorities and traditional military security, to the relative detriment of external climate policies.

  • The EU’s green transition resource needs
    Guided by the EU green transition and the heightened security mindset regarding strategic value chains, the EU is more focused than ever on securing the supply of renewable energy and critical minerals from third countries. However, this focus can counteract the fostering of stability, security, and modernisation in the affected countries.  

  • Not enough focus on climate adaptation

    In their external relations, the efforts of the EU and the member states in climate adaptation remains limited: the focus on getting other countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions (mitigation) still prevails. The EU and its member states have promised to commit more resources for climate adaptation measures, but actual financing and political still lag behind.