Decarbonization and Conflict Resolution: Implications for the Clean Energy Transition


Decarbonization and Conflict Resolution: New Patterns of Peacemaking in Political Marketplace Systems and its Implications for the Clean Energy Transition

Authors: Benjamin Spatz, Aditya Sarkar, and Alex de Waal

This policy brief outlines a new, and nuanced, relationship among conflict, peacemaking, and natural resources (particularly oil) in violent, transactional political systems (i.e., political marketplaces), describing how the availability of discretionary oil rents impacts patterns of peacemaking; there are more comprehensive peace deals when there is more oil revenue, and more limited deals such as ceasefires when that revenue decreases.

Decarbonization – replacing fossil fuels with “cleaner” non-hydrocarbon-based forms of energy – carries a previously unidentified set of risks in certain contexts: “it may be the loss of oil that causes conflict” (Pospisil 2021).

Transitioning away from fossil fuels would eliminate oil revenue as a ready source of political finance, which risks upsetting the associated elite deals unpinned in precisely the contexts where governments are least well-equipped to manage the transition. This has implications for stability, violence, peacemaking, corruption, development and humanitarian outcomes.

For an overview of the policy brief’s key points, read this blog post