Does climate action bring peace? Assessing the geopolitics of renewables using global investment data

Jürgen Braunstein, Andreas Goldthau, Konstantin Veit

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

The transition toward renewables is central to climate action. The paper empirically tests whether renewables also enhance international peace, a hypothesis discussed in the International Political Economy (IPE) of renewables literature. It develops and tests hypotheses about the pacifying effects of renewables, with a view to establishing the foundations for analyzing more detailed causal mechanisms. These mechanisms rest on the ‘energy democracy’ debate, suggesting that a low carbon world sees less interstate tension thanks to more states being democratic; the ‘capitalist peace’ theorem, establishing that the deployment of renewables brings about economic development, reducing conflict; and the human security literature, positing that renewables reduce local-level reduce vulnerabilities, thus enhancing social stability and reducing violence. Using a longitudinal dataset on global renewable energy investment, econometric tests suggest that distributed renewable energy systems do not seem to foster democratic rule, nor do they have a significant influence on human development. Countering the energy democracy literature, it is a higher concentration of renewable investment that tends to increase stability/ absence of violence and human development, instead of decentralized investment patterns. We find no evidence for the ‘peace through prosperity’ argument. Overall, there is no support for the assumption that renewables bring about peace and reduce conflict. The paper critically discusses the limitations of these findings and suggests further avenues for empirical research.
Original languageEnglish
Journalnpj Climate Action
Volume2
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2023

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