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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has generally been approached through demand-side initiatives, yet there are increasing calls for supply-side interventions to curtail fossil fuel production. Pursuing energy transition through supply-side constraints would have major geopolitical and economic consequences. Depending on the criteria and instruments applied, supply cuts for fossil fuels could drastically reduce and reorient major financial flows and reshape the spatiality of energy production and consumption. Building on debates about just transitions and supply constraints, we provide a survey of emerging interventions targeting the supply of, rather than the demand for, fossil fuels. We articulate four theories of justice and selection criteria to prioritize cuts among fossil fuel producers, including with regard to carbon-intensity, production costs, affordability, developmental efficiency, and support for climate change action. We then examine seven major supply-constraint instruments, their effectiveness, and possible pathways to supply cuts in the coal, oil and gas sectors. We suggest that supply cuts both reflects and offers purposeful political spaces of interventions towards a 'just' transition away from fossil fuel production.
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Just cuts for fossil fuels?
Supply-side carbon constraints and energy transition
Philippe Le Billon and Berit Kristoffersen
Accepted for publication in Environment and Planning A
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions has generally been approached through demand-side
initiatives, yet there are increasing calls for supply-side interventions to curtail fossil fuel
production. Pursuing energy transition through supply-side constraints would have major
geopolitical and economic consequences. Depending on the criteria and instruments
applied, supply cuts for fossil fuels could drastically reduce and reorient major financial
flows and reshape the spatiality of energy production and consumption. Building on
debates about just transitions and supply constraints, we provide a survey of emerging
interventions targeting the supply of, rather than the demand for, fossil fuels. We
articulate four theories of justice and selection criteria to prioritize cuts among fossil fuel
producers, including with regard to carbon-intensity, production costs, affordability,
developmental efficiency, and support for climate change action. We then examine seven
major supply-constraint instruments, their effectiveness, and possible pathways to supply
cuts in the coal, oil and gas sectors. We suggest that supply cuts both reflects and offers
purposeful political spaces of interventions towards a 'just' transition away from fossil
fuel production.
Keywords: fossil fuels; climate change; climate justice; divestments; blockades; energy
Keeping fossil fuels underground has become imperative to maintain global temperature
rise under 2oC by 2050, the low bar set in the Paris agreement on climate change. Most
mitigation efforts have been so far directed at reducing fossil fuel consumption, with
largely disappointing results. Global fossil fuel production continues to increase,
reflecting in part the weight of political and economic interests supporting fossil fuels
(BP, 2018; Lazarus and van Asselt, 2018). Despite clear indications that fossil fuel
industries will exceed their carbon budget, most fossil fuel producers still push for
increased extraction, including through emission-heavy fuels such as brown coal,
bitumen, and shale gas. In this context, calls to curtail fossil fuel production are growing
(Green and Denniss, 2018; Verkuijl et al., 2018), and a number of instruments are
becoming used, ranging from voluntary moratoriums to divestments and blockades.
Supply constraints can represent strategic points of interventions for climate justice
(Lenferna, 2017; Kharta et al., 2017, 2018), yet there remains much debate about their
role in a just energy transition away from fossil fuels.
Bringing about an energy transition through supply constraints means articulating
principles of justice with the profoundly geographical political economy of fossil fuel
sectors. An energy transition would not only reflect and reshape the highly uneven
geopolitical economy of fossil fuel energy sectors and their socio-environmental impacts
(Watts 2005; Bridge and Le Billon, 2017). It would also have major implications for
global financial flows and international relations, as well as affect the emerging
geopolitical economy of renewable energy (Scholten, 2018).So far, the spatialities of
supply-driven energy transition, and specific instruments and pathways to achieve it,
have not been much discussed. The international political economy of energy and
resources literature, for example, has mostly stressed the spatial dimensions of access to
resources, investment flows, price dynamics, and uneven power relations among multiple
actors (Van de Graaf et al., 2016; Goldthau et al., 2018), while most geographical studies
of energy transitions have generally focused on renewable energies (Bridge et al., 2013;
Ellabban et al., 2014; Huber and McCarthy, 2017).
Taking a geographical political economy approach, we engage here with the
socially contested and power-laden character of the fossil fuel sectors, the various
principles of justice that can be called upon to advance supply constraints objectives, and
the spatialities of supply-side energy transition. This involves not only examining the
‘classical’ geopolitics of energy transition processes (i.e. power relations between states
around energy transition), but also the multi-scalar reworking of energy-related
geopolitical and geoeconomic imaginaries and practices (Barnett, 2007; Dalby, 2013;
Huber, 2013; Kristoffersen, 2014). As such, we advance a 'geographical political
economy of supply-side constraints considering energy transition initiatives as both
space-making processes of constraint, such as the blockading of pipeline routes, and as
processes shaped by the spatial contexts of energy production networks, such as the
relative accessibility of energy supply alternatives for consumers. Our first objective is
thus to contribute to the envisioning of 'just' geopolitical and economic energy landscapes
emerging out of climate-related supply constraints. A second objective is to inform
debates about the spatialities of energy (Bridge, 2017; Calvert, 2016) and the difficulties
of combining both 'energy justice' and 'climate justice' (Newell and Mulvaney, 2013;
Jenkins et al., 2016; Healy and Barry, 2017; Weber and Cabras, 2017).
Following this introduction, we first discuss the definition and spatialisation of
supply cuts, as well debates around their justification. We then articulate theories of
justice with supply cuts criteria to prioritize cuts among fossil fuel producers according to
carbon-intensity, production costs, affordability, developmental efficiency, and
willingness criteria. We then examine the operationalization of supply-side instruments,
their spatialities, and their likely geopolitical economy impacts. Finally, we identify
possible pathways to supply cuts, taking into account the specifics of the coal, oil and gas
sectors and the relative effectiveness of various supply-side initiatives. We conclude with
a discussion of challenges and opportunities associated with supply-side constraints.
Defining supply cuts
Supply cuts can be defined as measures and processes constraining the production,
transportation or transformation of raw materials, either voluntarily or coercively, so that
supply is reduced for consumers, whether car drivers or power plants. Supply constraints
have strong geographical dimensions, both in terms of the space-making processes
involved - such as the decarbonization of energy production - and of the influence of
spatial contexts on these initiatives - such as the energy export dependence of countries
facing possible cuts. The uneven geopolitical economy of fossil fuels reflects not only
geological challenges and opportunities, but also patterns of past exploitation, as well as
technological, commercial, regulatory and cultural processes influencing investments and
production levels (Bridge et al., 2018). Such factors often mean that only part of the total
fossil fuel resources is technologically and commercially recoverable, thereby lowering
the upper-bound of estimated future CO2 concentration and increase in global-mean
surface temperature (Wang et al., 2017). Inversely, new technologies, de-regulation and
higher prices in effect ‘create’ fossil fuel reserves through easier accessibility, growing
investments, and greater profit margins (see Kama, 2016). Importantly, supply-side
constraints can thus have the effect of increasing supply in the medium-term if they
increase fossil fuel prices.
The spatial unevenness of fossil fuels and constraint measures also play out in
terms of revenues, as differences in production costs, taxation rates, subsidies and fuel
prices contribute to the unequal distribution of the massive revenues generated by fossil
fuels - with about only 5% of the world's population collecting about 50% of fossil fuel
rents generated between 1970 and 2010 (Kartha et al., 2016). Such uneven distribution is
further exacerbated by highly unequal rent distribution within producing countries,
thereby consolidating the rationale of a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels as a small
minority cumulates revenues (Mazaheri, 2017). Unevenness is particularly significant in
the oil sector, which accounts for about 75% of total fossil fuel rents in 2014 compared to
17% for coal and 8% for natural gas (World Bank, 2018).
The context of Paris commitments and volatile fossil fuel prices constitutes a
complex one for producers for considering cuts in the medium to long-term. Companies,
such as Shell (2016), have integrated climate change into their strategies and
communications, emphasizing the need and ability to decarbonize the power sector but
also the challenges of doing so in transportation and heavy industries. Such scenarios,
however, do not generally cast fossil fuel producers - either governments or companies -
as promoters of supply constraints, but rather as facilitators of a smooth transition to
‘zero emissions’ through technological innovation and carbon capture and storage.
Supply constraints mostly appear within these scenarios as ‘risks’ and ‘threats’, including
through economic shocks and political instability in fossil fuel producing countries (see
Equinor, 2018), especially in relation to hydrocarbon ‘stranded assets’ as the geopolitical
economy of fossil fuels recently shifted from public fears over shrinking reserves, or
‘peak supply’, to producers’ concerns about having more fossil fuels than will be
consumed, or ‘peak demand’ (see Van de Graaf, 2018).
Justifying supply cuts
Cutting supplies is increasingly deemed an effective complement to, and even have
synergistic effects with, demand-side efforts (Erickson and Lazarus, 2018; Fæhn et al.
2017; Lazarus and van Asselt, 2018). Recent econometric studies suggest that a cap on
fossil fuel extraction could potentially have the same effects on global emissions as a cap
on fossil fuel consumption (Fæhn et al., 2017; Verkuijl et al., 2018). Historically, many
of the largest reductions in emissions resulted from actual or perceive supply crunch,
such as the oil crises in the 1970s and the combination of record high prices and ‘peak
oil’ concerns around 2006-8. Fossil fuel producers have also demonstrated an ability to
reduce supply, although mostly for political or financial motives, as seen after price
slumps in the late 1990s and 2014-2016. With only 90 major industrial entities– mostly
fossil fuel companies - accounting for about 50% of the rise in global mean surface
temperature since 1980 (Ekwurzel et al., 2017), supply constraints offer the opportunity
of targeting the main beneficiaries of fossil fuel revenues and more specifically allocating
responsibility for carbon emissions (Collier and Venables, 2014; Harrison, 2015; Green
and Denniss, 2018). By reducing investments into future fossil fuel exploration and
production, supply constraints should help to prevent longer-term carbon lock-in (i.e.
“persistent market and policy failures that can inhibit the diffusion of carbon-saving
technologies despite their apparent environmental and economic advantages” see Unruh,
2000: 817; Seto, 2016) - through continued investment into capital-intensive fossil fuel
projects, and to pre-empt the ‘green paradox’ of having producers rush to develop
reserves before more stringent climate mitigation efforts shrinks fossil fuel markets (Sinn,
2012; Bauer et al., 2018).
Supply constraint approaches to climate change mitigation are gaining ground and
were included in the Talanoa Dialogues at COP 23; yet, they remain marginal within
mainstream organizations and international climate change processes (Lahn, 2017:
Lazarus et al., 2015). This marginality results from several challenges.
First, fossil fuel reserves are widely considered as sovereign assets under the
control of national governments, even if in practice sovereign control over resources is
largely reworked through contractual agreements and market mechanisms involving
private and foreign entities. Second, the current international political economy paradigm
considers market mechanisms as the most efficient, and though open to tax-based
policies, it generally remains averse to ‘hard’ forms of market constraints such as
production quotas and fixed prices. Third, despite geological constraints on the
availability of fossil fuel reserves, there remains many supply leakage possibilities among
producer countries (Fæhn et al., 2017). Constraining supply from some countries
increases economic incentives for others to increase exploration and production, as
demonstrated to some extent by OPEC’s history of attempts to control prices (Colgan
Fourth, the fossil fuel industry - and especially the oil and gas sector - remain
powerful lobbyists for their own interests, while fossil fuel producing governments are
often insulated from both domestic and international pressure through major fossil fuel
revenues (Princen et al. 2015; Ross, 2012). Fifth, within current international carbon
accounting standards, curtailing supplies does not count as a full contribution to
mitigation, since emissions are territorially accounted for at the location of consumption
rather than production (Harrison, 2015). Sixth, supply revenues often constitute a major
part of the economy and government revenues; supply cuts may thus translate into major
disruptions and financial losses, especially if the economy has not transitioned away from
fossil fuels and if cuts are not compensated for in producing countries. More generally,
constraining production only works if demand is accordingly constrained, as the
relatively low price elasticity of oil mean that prices will increase. Since fossil fuel
exporting countries are generally most interested by revenues, those not affected by cuts
will benefit from price increases, while those experiencing cuts may seek to compensate
volume losses through price increase.
These challenges do not foreclose a supply-side approach to climate change
mitigation, but they do point to the challenges of a transition and to the importance of
combining a 'just' approach to cuts with a geopolitical economy analysis of the diverse
interests and incentives associated with fossil fuels.
Prioritizing just cuts
In an ideal world, all fossil fuel producers would urgently agree on a set of supply cuts
criteria and begin implementation. A basic approach, for example, would be to determine
a ‘burnable fossil fuel allowance’ for fossil fuel producing companies and countries based
on the current status quo. Yet, even this basic and questionable approach would raise the
issue of deciding whether such allowance should be based on reserve or production levels
(Rekker et al., 2018). The use of a reserve criteria would advantage state-owned entities
and countries with the largest reserves, most of which are controlled by non-democratic
governments, and likely lead to reserve inflation - as seen among many OPEC members.
A production criteria would advantage investor-owned companies often publicly listed in
western democracies and countries having recently boosted unconventional production
such as the US. More generally, few producers are likely to voluntarily curtail production
without at least the hope of revenue compensation. Furthermore, even the most socially
and environmentally 'progressive' countries, may rebuke at the idea of seeing their
curtailed production leaking into producers with carbon-heavy fuel deposits, a dismal
environmental record, and poor governance.
Despite supposedly controlling 80% of oil reserves, OPEC still had relatively limited
control over prices, as non-conforming and new producers could over compensate for
OPEC supply reductions. The organization has historically mostly been able to lower
prices through extra supplies, rather than rising prices through supply constraints, unless
working in concert with other producers such as Russia (i.e. so-called 'OPEC+').
If both prices and volume decline, a producer may partially cushion some impacts on
the domestic economy through a depressed exchange rate (e.g. Russia's ruble 60% fall in
the wake of the 2014 oil price collapse).
Given the unlikeliness of a global consensus among all producers, one can turn to
a discussion of prioritization criteria for considering which producers should first see
cuts. Here, we articulate theories of justice with supply cuts criteria, and illustrate some
geopolitical economic implications in terms of countries or reserves to be prioritized for a
‘just’ transition away from fossil fuels (see Table 1).
Table 1 - Concepts of justice, supply cuts criteria, and resulting prioritization
Concepts of
Supply cuts
GHG amount
Countries with the largest fossil fuel production
(e.g. Coal: China; Oil: Saudi Arabia; Gas: United
GHG emission
Countries, or reserves, with the most GHG-heavy
life cycle (e.g. Coal: Germany's lignite mines; Oil:
Canada tar sands; Gas: US shale gas)
Countries, or reserves, with the highest production
costs (e.g. Coal: Poland; Oil: UK; Gas: Canada)
Countries with high income and low fossil-fuel
revenue dependence (e.g. Coal: US; Oil: Canada;
Gas: Netherlands)
Countries with the poorest development record
from fossil fuel wealth (e.g. Coal: India; Oil:
Angola; Gas: Venezuela)
Countries with the largest historical cumulative per-
capita production (e.g. Coal: Germany; Oil: US;
Gas: Qatar)
Countries with the strongest public support and
governmental willingness for cuts in (future)
production (e.g. Coal: Germany; Oil: New Zealand;
Gas: Netherlands).
Note: country examples for illustrative purposes only.
The first category of supply cuts criteria directly relates to the amounts and
characteristics of fossil fuels, in terms of their relative volume, greenhouse gas emission
intensity, and cost of production (Collier and Venables, 2014; McGlade and Ekins, 2015).
In short, the countries producing the most fossil fuels, the most carbon intensive fuels,
and/or the costliest fossil fuels should be the first to implement cuts.
These criteria rely
on an utilitarian conception of justice whereby the reductions in emissions and economic
benefits of a 'just' transition are maximized for all stakeholders. In their landmark paper
on unburnable fossil fuels, McGlade and Ekins (2015: 187) conclude that “globally, a
There can be a tradeoff between these two criteria. Some of the most carbon-intensive
fuels are also among the cheapest to produce, such as coal, in which case carbon intensity
should take precedence. In other cases, such as bitumen, both carbon intensity and
production costs are high, thereby doubly justifying cuts.
third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves
should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2°C”. Accounting
for the carbon intensity and production costs of reserves, McGlade and Ekins (2015)
present a geographical distribution of unburnable reserves.
Within the oil sector, three
main types of reserves should be prioritized for (future) cuts: Arctic oil deposits, deep-
water oil reserves, and unconventional oil resources. The regions, or countries, with the
largest unburnable oil reserves would be the Middle East, followed by Canada and
Central and South America, especially Venezuela. The average global percentage
reduction for all three types of fossil fuels is 58% of total reserves, with the Middle East
being the most severely affected in terms of foregone fossil fuel rents.
The second set of prioritization criteria relates to the economic context of
producing countries, in terms of the affordability of production cuts and developmental
efficiency of fossil fuel rents. The affordability criterion prioritizes cuts in wealthy
countries with a low dependence on fossil fuel rents, over poor countries with a high
dependence. In contrast, the developmental efficiency criterion based on the resource
curse paradigm prioritizes cuts in countries that mismanage their fossil fuel rents, notably
as a result of corruption, ineffective rent capture, and wasteful allocation. Whereas the
affordability criterion relies on a distributive concept of justice allocating to poorer
countries the remaining rents within a 2oC ‘carbon budget’, the developmental criterion
rests on a retributive concept of justice seeking to prevent the future effects of poorly
managed rents, based on previous performance. The developmental efficiency approach
is in part based in path-dependence theory, asserting that past underperformance is likely
to shape future performance. As such, a more radical interpretation of the ‘resource
curse’ would suggest that some countries may be better off without fossil fuel revenues:
even if cuts seem unaffordable, cutting fossil fuel production would be developmentally
more efficient than remaining dependent on it.
The third criterion derives from past production and is associated with a
restorative or reparative concept of justice, through which the proportion of past supply,
either in absolute (e.g. percentage of global historical production per capita) or relative
terms (i.e. percentage of total domestic reserves already produced per capita), prioritizes
cuts among countries and determines compensation for previous harm, with for example
compensation funding climate adaptation or fossil fuel cuts by other producers. Old
major producers would thus be prioritized.
The fourth criterion relates to the willingness of fossil fuel producers to
implement cuts. This criterion is based on a rehabilitative concept of justice, whereby
governments (and citizens) recognize the harm associated with fossil fuels and commit to
cuts, including in pre-emptive ways if they have not yet been producers. Political
mobilization to act on climate change depends in large part on public support, at least in
The oil industry responded to the post-2014 price collapse and concerns about ‘lower
for longer’ oil prices by greater efficiency and cost reductions, with the break-even price
for deep-water offshore and for unconventional oil and gas in the US going down. Some
regions, such as the Arctic still have high production costs and reputational risks as core
concerns, but overall more oil and gas is being produced at lower prices, adding to low
cost Middle East reserves. On the impact of lower oil prices on production costs, see
(Toews and Naumov, 2015).
democracies. Policy shifts are thus more likely when more people are concerned with
climate and environmental issues (Tvinnereim et al., 2017).
Citizens and governments
are more inclined to see cuts occurring if they are strongly in favor of climate change
action, and even more so if they will bear little or no costs from these cuts. Such contexts,
however, are generally characteristic of countries with little or no production. France, for
example, banned further exploration and all production after 2040, but it is a negligible
producer. Finding ways to increase willingness among significant fossil fuel producers is
thus particularly important. These can include building awareness on climate change
impacts, providing financial incentives to forego future fossil fuel production,
demonstrating the value of economic diversification, as well as promoting viable
economic alternatives and futures beyond fossil fuel dependence (Dale and Kristoffersen,
2018). In this respect, both Canada and Norway struggle with their ‘cognitive dissonance’
between their climate-friendly image and maintaining high levels of fossil fuel exports
(Steentjes et al., 2017: 8-11). A comparative study including Canada and Norway shows
that support for climate action also depends on expectations of reciprocity by other
countries (Tvinnereim et al., 2017). Forming a coalition of ‘first movers’ thus seems a
necessity for ‘willingness’ to happen.
Operationalizing just cuts
There are two main types of supply-constraint instruments: financial and material, with
some degree of overlap between them. Financial instruments seek to reduce supply by
removing production subsidies, incorporating ‘externalities’ into the full cost of
production, taxing production, reducing investments into production, and compensating
for revenue losses. Material instruments seek to reduce supply by creating legal or
physical obstacles to production, transportation, and transformation, and can include
project-specific blockades and various forms of moratoriums, including voluntary cuts
and export embargoes.
Subsidy removal
Subsidies play a major role in the political economy of fossil fuels, notably by reducing
costs for producers and consumers (EIA, 2015). Broadly defined fossil fuel subsidies
would amount to an estimated $5.13 trillion in 2015, of which 81% results from the
unaccounted costs of air pollution, climate change impacts and broader vehicle
externalities (Coady et al., 2017). Global direct subsidies for production would amount at
$50-100 billion and consumption subsidies at about $500 billion (GSI, n.d.; see also, Bast
et al., 2014). Production subsidies can play a significant role in the viability of individual
fossil fuel projects, notably through support for non-conventional fossil fuels, foreign
direct investment credit and insurances, as well as covering exploration and development
expenses (Adeyeye et al., 2009).
The willingness criterion generally reflects the position of, and relations between
populations and governments, but also genuine concerns over negative socio-economic
impacts. The Dutch government, for example, reduced production from the Groningen
gas field committed to end production by 2030 out of concerns about gas extraction
resulting in damaging earthquakes (van den Berg, 2018).
Full accounting of externalities and emission-related production tax
First implemented in Finland in 1990, carbon taxes have generally been devised to
constrain demand, but hydrocarbon industries have often been sheltered from carbon
taxes through exemptions. Oil production in Norway and the Canadian province of
Alberta are among the best documented attempts to better account for fossil fuel
externalities at the production stage. Norway first introduced a carbon tax in 1991, and
doubled the applicable rate for the oil and gas industry to $72/ton in 2012 - the highest
among all Norway’s economic sectors. The Norwegian government also frequently
impose low carbon options to field development - such as through on-shore hydroelectric
supply - even if pricier. Despite mature oil fields normally emitting more, Norway's per
unit emission is about half the world average (Woodmac, 2017). In Alberta, a carbon tax
was first imposed in 2007, and was increased to $20/ton in 2012 and $30/ton in 2018
(Alta. Reg. 139/2007). Although the effect of carbon pricing is generally considered as
minor compared to the impact of oil prices on levels of new production development, a
recent modeling of a production tax jointly levied by the main steam coal exporters
suggest that it would significantly reduce steam coal emissions while being revenue
positive for the sector as a whole (Richter et al., 2018).
Finance swap
Finance swaps are based on the principle of monetary compensation for leaving fossil
fuel underground.
This principle is itself based on the sovereign right of individual states
to develop their resources, and the opportunity cost associated with renouncing this right
(Armstrong, 2017). This ‘right to exploit resources’ is further legitimated by the idea of a
‘right to development’ (Grigorescu and Komp, 2017), which is all the more valid for poor
countries having demonstrated an ability to turn fossil fuel rents into positive
developmental outcomes for their population. By 2018, only one fossil fuel-finance swap
had been attempted. Launched in 2007 by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, the
Yasuni-ITT Initiative sought to obtain financial compensation for not exploiting the oil
reserve of the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) block estimated at 846 million
barrels and located within the Yasuní National Park in the Amazon (Vallejo et al., 2015).
Rather than demonstrating the viability of swap schemes, the initiative served as a
warning about the multiple and daunting challenges faced by supply-side efforts
(Sovacool and Scarpaci, 2016). Key among these is the question of who is to compensate
for fossil fuels left in the ground. This in turn implies an internationally-agreed funding
mechanism including a redistribution of the rents potentially arising from price increases
that would likely result from supply cuts in the absence of demand reduction (see Collier
and Venables, 2014).
Fossil fuel divestment campaigns first emerged in the early 1990s to further persuade
insurance companies and financial institutions that investments into fossil fuels has
negative knock-on effects on debts and equities through increased climate change related
For formal modelling applied to coal, see (Harstad, 2012). For a critique of the concept
of compensation of future generations through progress enabled via fossil fuel use, see
(Spash, 1994).
risks (Leggett, 1996). The divestment movement has used a wide range of campaign
strategies - including direct action, lobbying, knowledge construction and facilitation - to
motivate investors to relinquish fossil fuel stock holdings (Ayling and Gunningham,
2017). Initially based on moral arguments mobilizing climate change science, the
divestment movement found additional support as concerns over ‘stranded assets’ grew
in the early 2010s and the commodity bust of the mid-2010s drove down fossil fuel
company stocks (Le Billon and Good, 2016).
According to the main divestment
coalition,, the number and market value of institutions committing to or having
divested from fossil fuels grew from about 42 institutions valued at $50 billion in early
2013 to about 990 institutions valued at $7.2 trillion by October 2018. This rapid growth
lends credence to the rise of an anti-fossil fuel norm among mostly ethically-concerned
financial institutions and international banks in western countries, especially turning
away from coal projects (Green, 2017). Although promising, norm diffusion towards a
broader range of financial institutions and countries, as well as effective influence over
fossil fuel state companies remain to be seen. Many fossil fuel producers, especially those
organized through large state-owned companies like national oil companies in the Middle
East, are relatively insulated from external financial leverage, including from western
investment funds that constitute the vast majority of divesting organizations.
Tradable production quota
Tradable Production Quotas (TPQs) are based on principles of output rationing,
efficiency, and to some extent equity. TPQs are common in the agricultural and fisheries
sectors (e.g. tradable catch quota), and have also been used for environmental objectives
(OECD, 2000), including Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) seeking to address both
carbon emission concerns and oil scarcity concerns through the sharing out of access to
fossil fuel energy among individuals and organizations (Fleming and Chamberlain,
2011). TPQs entice more expensive production to be traded over cheaper production, thus
in effect preventing the growth of high-cost production opening up new (and often more
carbon intensive) reserves - which typically occurs during periods of high prices, and as
expected if supply constraints occurs in the absence of demand reduction. Unlike the
OPEC production quota system based on official (mis)reported reserves, TPQs based on
a ‘right to produce’ that reflect dimensions such as the carbon intensity of production, the
income level and degree of fossil fuel dependence, as well as other considerations such as
social development progress or decarbonization of the economy (Collier, 2015). Overall,
TPQs offer a promising supply constraint option, but several major hurdles need to be
overcome: agreement on overall production, quasi-universal participation, a fair system
of quota trading, a potential queue system for new projects, and revenue allocation
consistent with the overall objective of reducing emissions so that revenues are not
reinvested in carbon-intensive projects and lifestyles.
More generally, divested portfolios do not significantly underperform compared to
unconstrained ones; if divestment narrows opportunities for short-term gains, investment
in fossil fuel increases exposure to systemic risks (Trinks and al, 2017). Yet, the rise of
divestment may generate a premium for fossil fuel funding by increasing capital demand,
and thus bring higher returns for the remaining investors.
Blocking extraction
Blockades are a form of direct action to prevent concrete ‘on the ground’ fossil fuels
activities from taking place at any point of the supply chain. Frequently combined with
other kinds of protests (such as rallies, strikes and boycotts), and often preceded or
backed by online-petitions (see McNeill and Thornton, 2017), blockades are used to
prevent access to an area or to stop a physical operation from happening (Bradshaw,
2015). Both tactical and strategic approaches are used, taking into consideration the
relative vulnerability, accessibility, significance and public visibility of specific
infrastructure, equipment and places. Blockades are not only used as a ‘last stand’ in
protracted campaigns, but also as preventative measures to signal the determination of
local communities and their allies, as well as communication and mobilization tools
drawing attention to specific projects or entire industries. As such, blockades are
increasingly recognized as an effective tool for civil society groups and professionalised
NGOs. Beyond ‘blocking’ fossil fuel projects, these forms of direct action can also
(re)take control of fossil fuel spaces to give them an alternative non-extractive purpose,
thereby ‘opening’ new spatialities for alternative energy futures as part of space making
processes (see Temper and Bliss, 2015). By early 2018, the Blockadia team at the
Environmental Justice Atlas had documented 69 cases of sustained resistance and direct
action against fossil fuel projects, part of a broader range of climate justice and socio-
environmental energy struggles that rose from an estimated 50 in the late 1990s to about
350 by 2015 (Temper et al., 2015).
High-profile direct actions have targeted oil rigs in
the Arctic and tar sands infrastructure in Canada (Le Billon and Vandecasteyen, 2013;
McCreary and Miligan, 2014). Many producing countries are largely immune to effective
blockading campaigns, as a result of repression against anti-fossil fuel groups,
sophisticated corporate and governmental counter-insurgency against activist groups and
communities, domestic redistributive policies funded through fossil fuel revenues, and
the relative insulation of their ruling elites from public pressure (Le Billon and Carter,
2012; Brock and Dunlap, 2018). In this respect, blockades - and more generally supply
cut policies - may have more traction when associated with broader societal concerns
about additional socio-environmental impacts, but also human rights abuses, corruption,
inequalities or authoritarian rule associated with fossil fuels.
Production bans and moratoriums
Bans and moratoriums, understood as a permanent or temporary prohibition of an activity
or postponement of projects, can have powerful effects when instituted by governments.
Even postponements and delays in the development of fossil fuel infrastructure or
production through moratoriums may be effective when it comes to avoiding carbon
lock-in or increasing the conditions for fossil fuel phase-outs in terms of stranded assets,
thus providing the grounds for positing alternative paths (Princen et al., 2015). So far
moratoriums tend to be project, area, or time-specific, with place-based moratoriums
often motivated by other considerations than carbon emissions, including the impacts of
oil spills on biodiversity conservation, fisheries, or tourism (Shavell, 2011; Dale and
Kristoffersen, 2014; Palen et al., 2014). As such, they run the risk of increasing carbon
leakages - as investments are redirected towards areas and projects not affected by
moratoriums - and of overlooking the cumulative impacts of infrastructure development
as companies seek alternative production projects (Palen et al., 2014). Moratoriums are
also often imposed through discrete political decisions, rather than institutional or legal
processes, thus increasing the risk of decision reversals, as seen in the US between the
Obama and Trump administrations (Erickson and Lazarus, 2018).
Overall, there is yet
no emerging norm that could lead to a global moratorium on fossil fuel projects, even for
new coal mines (Blondeel and Van de Graaf, 2018). As a result, moratoriums often result
from a mix of climate and local impact concerns, mostly related to water pollution and oil
spills, as seen in New Zealand. A first attempt at identifying all moratoriums and bans
from press reports yielded a total of 108 cases, 101 dealing with the interdiction of shale
gas projects by sub-national authorities and three national-level bans on fossil fuels,
including by Costa Rica, Belize, and France, with Ireland possibly joining this group.
None of these countries, however, are significant producers.
Pathways to just cuts
Just cuts can be justified through principles of justice, prioritized according to the
characteristics of fossil fuel producers, and operationalized through various instruments.
Based on the distributive justice principle of affordability, countries that can
economically cope with the shutting down of their fossil fuel sectors and have the
capacity to carry out an effective and fair transition for fossil fuel industry workers and
energy consumers should be the first to implement supply cuts (Muttit and Kartha, 2018).
This could notably include high income countries with low fossil fuel rent dependence,
diversified economy, capable governments, and relatively few fossil fuel industry
workers. Next, could be middle and high countries that are dependent on fossil fuel
revenues or domestic energy input, and face difficulties to manage a transition. Last,
could be low income countries that remain much in need of fossil fuel export revenues
and have a very low ability to manage a transition, yet are still efficiently managing these
revenues for developmental purposes. Compensation for supply cuts and international
assistance mechanisms for effecting the transition should, in turn, reflect affordability and
capacity criteria, with poorer and less capable countries receiving greater compensation
and more assistance (Muttit and Kartha, 2018).
Yet, the question remains about the feasibility of effectively implementing cuts.
Two main dimensions need to be taken into account: the first one is the relative
effectiveness of the various instruments proposed; the second is the relative likeliness of
political processes that would result in the application of these instruments. However, no
systematic assessment of supply constraint instruments has yet been conducted, and only
few studies provide either theoretical models or retrospective assessments of decision-
making processes leading to supply cuts motivated by climate change concerns. Within
Erickson and Lazarus (2018) estimate that the net effect on global emission of reducing
access to US federal land leases would have been 39 Mt CO2 for oil and 240 Mt CO2 for
Search was conducted through a review of relevant academic studies and policy
reports, as well as Lexis-Nexis and Google, with search terms including: ban,
moratorium, oil, gas, fracking, coal. Languages used included English, French and
these limitations, we discuss here some potential pathways towards supply cuts for each
of the main fossil fuel sectors.
The coal sector is the most likely candidate for supply cuts. Not only has this fossil fuel
been the longest in use - and coal cuts thus responding to restorative justice principles -
but its higher carbon emission intensity compared to oil and gas also supports some
aspects of utilitarian justice. Coal production is also highly concentrated and generates
relatively low rents, which supports some distributive justice arguments (IEA, 2017;
Lange et al., 2018).
The top ten coal producing countries account for 95% of global
production, and three of them – China, US, and Germany – have highly diversified and
wealthy economies that could financially withstand a domestic production ban (see Table
2). Finally, there is generally stronger willingness among the public and governments to
cut coal, as seen with the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ pledging to phase out coal
power, thereby supporting rehabilitative justice (UNFCCC, 2017). The phasing out of
coal power plants is already well underway in the European Union, and China imposed
restrictions on new plants in 2016 to reduce overcapacity and address emission concerns.
In India, private capital is being redirected from coal to more profitable renewables while
the National Electricity Plan calls for more renewables. Supply constraints keeping coal
prices up and above renewables could consolidate and even accelerate the transition away
from coal.
Serious impediments to broad cuts remain, however. Coal’s low production costs
give it prominence on energy affordability criteria and it remains necessary in many
countries to run power plants and thus many economic activities. Beyond existing plants,
nearly a million megawatts in coal power was under construction or on hold and nearly
half a million megawatts was still being planned worldwide by early 2018 (Shearer et al.,
2018). Coal also benefits from an iconic ‘blue collar’ image and offers significant
employment in coal mining dependent regions with limited prospects to diversity, thereby
often benefiting from a higher level of public support than oil and gas. Even if coal
mining in the US directly employed only about 0.05% of the overall national workforce,
US President Donald Trump actively played that card during his 2016 electoral
campaign. Echoing the 2008 republican slogan ‘Drill, baby, drill’, Trump seized upon the
motto ‘Trump digs coal’ to advance a brash agenda of fossil-fueled national revival
towards ‘greatness’. Reflecting popular sympathy for coal miners and concerns over
energy dependence towards Russia, the Polish government is seeking to increase
investment into new coal mines and projects to still have coal as 50% of its energy mix
by 2050, despite unfavorable market conditions and possible EU fines (Mikulska and
Kosinski, 2018).
Table 2 – Major coal producers (2016)
By 2016, only few countries remained significantly dependent on coal production in
terms of revenues - Mongolia 4.3% of GDP, Mozambique 2.2%, South Africa 1.6%
(Lange et al, 2018).
Coal rent
(% GDP)
Coal workers
Supply cut policies by
2016-2019, efficiency driven
2016, reversed, environment
2016 announced by not
implemented, environment
and economy driven
South Africa
2018 closure of hard coal
mines, lignite mines under
Sources: BP, 2018; Lange et al., 2018; employment from industry sources for nearest
Potential pathways to coal supply cuts could include: a mix of economic
incentives resulting in the closure or abandonment of inefficient/subsidized coal mines, as
recently seen in China (Blondeel and Van de Graaf, 2018); joint supply-side policies
sustaining revenues through increased prices rather than increased volumes
(Mendelevitch et al., 2017); and the morally-motivated adoption of production
moratoriums backed by domestic and international political mobilization (Green, 2018),
including through the blockade of specific projects. Examining the case of the
international steam coal market, Mendelevitch (2018) finds that reforms in production
subsidies within major producing countries would only have a minor positive impact on
emissions reduction, while a global moratorium on new coal mines would enable the
achievement of 1.5-2oC reduction targets for this specific market. A global moratorium
however, would most likely require a compensation mechanism, at least for low-income
countries, as discussed by Collier and Venables (2014) who propose that wealthier
carbon producers compensate poorer ones.
Germany and the US are the best placed given their lower economic reliance on
coal. Germany's federal government was set to close the last two hard coal mines by the
end of 2018 and has set-up a ‘coal exit commission’ to find economic alternatives for
lignite mining regions (Whermann, 2018). In contrast, the Trump administration undid
most of the constraints placed on coal mining by the Obama administration and is seeking
to revive the industry through easier licensing and lower standards for coal power plants
(Popovich et al., 2018). China did impose a stricter moratorium on coal power plants in
2016, but as the world largest coal producer and consumer it is very unlikely to declare a
major domestic production ban until it has implemented a sufficient transition in power
generation to gas and renewables. As Blondeel and Van de Graaf (2018) conclude from a
survey of the top five coal producers, coal mining moratoriums have been so far adopted
for different reasons, limited in time, and occasionally reversed. Despite unfavorable
market conditions in recent years and more widespread public support for phasing out
coal compared to other fossil fuels, there remains doubts about the possibility of a strong
global norm promoting the end of coal production.
Oil is the second most likely candidate for supply cuts, at it tends to have higher
production costs than coal and emits more carbon than natural gas, thus relating to some
aspects of utilitarian justice. Oil production is also relatively concentrated, with the three
largest producers accounting about a third of supplies. Many significant producers - with
the exception of the US and China - are also net exporters, thus reducing domestic energy
security concerns. Yet, oil remains hard to replace within the current oil-fueled transport
system and its large production rents make it difficult for both consumers and producers
to give up (Bridge and Le Billon, 2017). Unlike coal, oil rents represent more than 5% of
GDP in many producing countries, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa,
where it reaches an average of 15% of GDP, with up to 44% in Kuwait (Table 3). Supply
cuts in such oil dependent countries would entail a major shock, thus posing dilemmas in
terms of distributive justice. In part because of the volatility of oil revenues and other ‘oil
curse’ effects, many ‘oil rich’ countries are seeking to diversify their economy, although
the political implications of such a shift is often seen by domestic ruling elites as a
possible threat to their oil-fueled regime (Ross 2012, Le Billon, 2013). There is thus a
possibility that governments in oil producing countries may adopt some measures to curb
down their dependence through oil cuts, but these would be progressive and likely
marginal in the medium term. While Saudi Arabia and Russia mutually agreed to curb
down production in 2017 and 2018 to increase prices, they rapidly advocated for
production increases once the target of $80 per barrel was within reach and US sanctions
against Iran were to be re-instated by the Trump administration (Wingfield et al., 2018).
Table 3 – Major oil producers (2016)
Oil production
Oil rent
(% GDP)
Supply cut policies by
Saudi Arabia
Supply cuts (2017-18),
economy driven
United States
Moratoriums, reversed
Russian Fed.
Subsidy removal and supply
cuts (2017-18), economy
Carbon tax hike, economy
and environment driven
United Arab
Sources: BP, 2018; Lange et al., 2018.
The most likely pathways towards oil supply cuts combine market incentives in
the face of depressed demand (e.g. accelerated by a progressive electrification of the
transportation system), public pressure brought on by climate and other concerns (e.g.
spills, air quality, traffic congestions), and a paradigm shift among government
authorities to eschew an extractivist model of development in favor of alternative ones
(e.g. by redirecting public subsidies from oil to renewables or non-oil transportation).
While the first option had a long history associated with attempts to prop-up prices
through quota systems, the second seems only viable in a very limited number of
As Green (2018: 450) points out, “understanding the interactions between states’
social identities (affected by logics of appropriateness) and their incentives (the
combination of social and economic costs and benefits) is crucial to explaining and
predicting the diffusion of fossil fuel bans”. Yet, even Canada and Norway, two self-
portrayed champions of climate change mitigation with some degree of public pressure
for a decarbonization of the energy production mix, have not taken steps to reduce the
prospects of oil production growth. Instead, both have pursued a strategy of reducing
consumption-based emissions to sustain or increase production-based emissions. Among
large oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, current governments are
openly pro-oil and either battle for market-share or collude to sustain high prices. Supply
cuts are thus more likely to come from within the public, or governments that have little
to lose or have concerns for other environmental aspects such as marine oil spills.
Following the price slumps of 2014-2016, the oil sector did see some oil cuts, but these
were largely financially motivated, and while some blockades against oil supply
infrastructure are occurring, there seems to be little appetite in significant producer
countries - among both the public and governments - to implement climate-related supply
Gas should be the least likely candidate for supply cuts. Its emissions are lower that the
two other fossil fuels, and it is thus often presented as a ‘transition fuel’ helping to
displace coal - notably by international oil companies that broadened their natural gas
portfolio (but see Greiner et al., 2018). Like coal, natural gas also tends to generate lower
levels of rents for producers than oil, even if more countries are gas revenue dependent
than coal producing ones. Not all gas deposits are equal, however, and the growth in
natural gas experienced over the past decade reflects in part the boom in hydraulic
fracturing or ‘fracking’ techniques, which have more environmental impacts than
conventional deposits and techniques (Howarth et al., 2011). Gas is thus seeing the
largest number of blockades and bans among fossil fuels, thereby showing some support
for rehabilitative justice. The structure of the natural gas market also influences the
potential for supply cuts. It is traditionally more diffuse and regionalized than other fossil
fuels, and backed by long-term bilateral sales contract, but the spread of Liquified
Natural Gas (LNG) and more malleable contractual terms has increased flexibility in
natural gas trade and contributed to making it more of a 'global market' (Bridge and
Bradshaw, 2017).
Table 4 – Major gas producers (2016)
Gas production
Gas rents
(% GDP)
Supply cut policies by
United States
Bans at state and municipal
Russian Fed.
Moratorium on offshore Artic
licenses, economy driven
Bans at provincial level, carbon
tax, environment driven
Carbon tax
Saudi Arabia
Bans at state level, environment
Sources: BP, 2018; Lange et al., 2018.
The most plausible pathways towards gas supply cuts at this point is a more
global rejection of gas fracking. By mid-2018, such bans were in place within 19
countries at national level (although none in a top ten producing country), and 18
provincial/state jurisdictions, including within Australia, Canada and the US. The uneven
distribution of fracking bans in the US, including at municipality level, has allowed to
point to some of the socioeconomic and micro-level politics factors influencing, with
notably higher education levels, poverty rates, and Democrats increasing the likelihood of
a fracking ban while larger presence of veterans and existing wells reducing it (Hall et al.,
2018). Similarly, the contrasting responses of different European countries point at the
importance of political factors, with public concern being a sufficient condition for
restrictions, while other conditions such as the political composition of the government
and multilevel governance work in combination with others, and some like democratic
tradition and energy security do not seem to matter (Van de graaf et al., 2018). Public
concerns for the local health and environmental impacts shale gas deposits, rather than
GHG emissions alone, thus appear to provide the best platform for gas supply cuts.
This paper has provided an overview of the geopolitical economy of fossil fuel supply-
side constraints, with a discussion of justice principles, constraint criteria, possible
pathways to supply cuts, and effectiveness for constraint initiatives . Here, we conclude
by drawing major points about supply-side approaches.
First, very few fossil fuel producers are willing to cut their production for the
purpose of reducing emissions, while instruments that respond to this unwillingness –
such as blockades - have so far been largely ineffective at a systemic level, or
inapplicable given the repressive context and revenue dependence prevailing in many
fossil fuel producing countries. Of all top ten major producers across all three fossil fuel
sectors, only Germany has taken steps at the national level to durably end production
because of primarily climate concerns. All other initiatives taken by significant producer
governments were largely economically-driven, short term, or promptly reversed.
Second, the current unwillingness of fossil fuel producers requires that potential
instruments need more policy refinement so as to more clearly identify their potential,
limits, and impacts. It is important in this regard to distinguish fossil fuel producing
companies from the governments and diverse social groups of fossil fuel producing
countries, so as to better grasp and address their various short and long term interests and
incentives – however challenging this is given the vast number of state-owned fossil fuel
companies, the tight links between companies and many ruling elites, the lobbying
influence of actors linked to fossil fuel interests (including shareholders, managers and
workers), the hold that 'petro-culture' holds on many societies (including through cars and
air travel), and the role of companies and governments in sustaining fossil fuel-based
‘energy security’.
Third, supply-side initiatives must work in concert with demand-side policies, so
as to bring out synergies and avoid counterproductive impacts. Many supply-side
initiatives also need to connect with other efforts and coalitions seeking to cut fossil fuel
production for other motives than simply climate change. As such, not only do ‘local
spaces’ of supply constraint need to be created, for example through blockades, but the
‘non-carbon’ values of places need to be (re)asserted, for example through indigenous
values and territorialities.
Fourth, policy coalitions are required, especially among producers, as individual
initiatives often have no significant impact due to production leakages between countries
and companies. Effectiveness will come through the mobilization of geopolitical
economic coalitions internalizing new norms of non-production. As such, energy
transition through supply constraints will not only create new geopolitical economic
spaces as energy transition and emissions mitigating reshape the geography of fossil fuel
production, but also reflect pre-existing networks of like-minded societies and
organizations willing to take steps towards reducting fossil fuel production.
Fifth, energy transition through supply-constraints offers possibilities for a
‘negotiated’ or ‘managed’ reshaping of energy spaces. Rather than facing only market-
driven pressure associated with demand-side initiatives, supply-constraint initiatives can
offer more directed and intentional options for fossil fuel production. As such, supply-
constraints offers a geopolitical economic space of purposeful political intervention that
can help producers manage the economic (and political) fallouts of a transition away
from fossil fuels. Again, this means that new spaces of political interactions are brought
into being around supply-constraint initiatives, such as blockading networks or coalitions
of governments adopting moratoriums, while political processes around these initiatives
are themselves shaped by existing socio-spatial forms such as territorial jurisdictions.
Finally, our brief evaluation of the supply-side ‘toolkit’ identified some of the
opportunities and challenges of specific instruments that could help with the reshaping of
energy spaces. Implementing these instruments involves discursive and material space-
making processes that reflect both place-based politics and global geopolitical
reconfigurations. Situating these processes within a broad range of micro-political
practices and global discourses mobilizing a ‘just transition’ ethos should provide them
with greater legitimacy. Yet, as discussed above, not only are energy and climate justice
often difficult to reconcile, but different concepts of justice can be mobilized to shift
between different prioritization criteria (Jenkins et al., 2016). Climate-driven energy
transition thus constitutes a deeply geopolitical economic project, arguably more so than
a market-driven demand-side approach. This further justifies the combining of demand
and supply side approaches, and the use of diverse policy criteria for more effective
mitigation of GHG emissions (Green and Denniss, 2018).
Further research is needed to better understand the alternative climate policy
instruments and their geopolitical economies. To this end, we suggest three main
complementary suggestions for further research. One is to build a comprehensive dataset
of supply-constraint initiatives and tracking their outcomes. Such dataset could use the
categories identified in this paper, and include variables such as country; initiative
promoters; start, end, and duration; type, volume, and production stage of fossil fuels
targeted; outcomes; motives of cancelation. The second is to more systematically
document the characteristics of fossil fuel producers to better identify arguments for, and
potential pathways towards supply cuts. The third is to delve deeper into specific cases to
better understand the intricacies of power relations that have so far prevented more
effective supply cuts, even in the presence of sound arguments and plausible pathways.
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... A small number of authors have raised the potential for alternative approaches, such as supply-side cuts or outright bans of fossil fuels (e.g. Green & Denniss, 2018;Le Billon & Kristoffersen, 2020;Sinn, 2012), all noting how surprisingly rarely such approaches are mentioned in official policy documents. According to Green (2018: 449), the IPCC report on "National and Sub-national Policies and Institutions" did not contain even one mention of bans. 1 Le Billon & Kristoffersen (2020) point out that it would be simpler to cut supply because there are far fewer suppliers than consumers, although they recognise several challenges with this approach such as the importance of fossil fuel production to many countries' sovereign revenue or tax income, possibility for leakage between countries and the policy focus on consumption rather than production. 2 Supply-side cuts and bans serve a secondary normative purpose relevant to the topic of this paper, in that they contribute to maintaining or changing political norms. ...
... A small number of authors have raised the potential for alternative approaches, such as supply-side cuts or outright bans of fossil fuels (e.g. Green & Denniss, 2018;Le Billon & Kristoffersen, 2020;Sinn, 2012), all noting how surprisingly rarely such approaches are mentioned in official policy documents. According to Green (2018: 449), the IPCC report on "National and Sub-national Policies and Institutions" did not contain even one mention of bans. 1 Le Billon & Kristoffersen (2020) point out that it would be simpler to cut supply because there are far fewer suppliers than consumers, although they recognise several challenges with this approach such as the importance of fossil fuel production to many countries' sovereign revenue or tax income, possibility for leakage between countries and the policy focus on consumption rather than production. 2 Supply-side cuts and bans serve a secondary normative purpose relevant to the topic of this paper, in that they contribute to maintaining or changing political norms. Green and Denniss (2018: 75) argue that "climate policies themselves, by (re-)allocating resources, creating institutions, incentivising investments and influencing culture, also affect patterns of politics and power relations in subtle but crucial ways, in turn shaping what becomes feasible in the future". ...
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This paper questions the dominance of market-based mechanisms (MBMs) as the primary means of climate change mitigation. It argues that, not only they are unsuccessful on their own terms, but also they actually make the task more difficult by the unintended consequence of normalising the act of polluting and crowding out alternatives. The theoretical contribution of the paper is to draw a link between two bodies of literature. The first is the business ethics literature on the dominance of market-based rather than direct regulation, and the second is the literature on market ethics, particularly the work of Michael Sandel on how MBMs crowd out non-market norms. The empirical contribution is to use the international maritime transport sector to illustrate the way market-based regulation renders alternatives such as direct regulation and supply-side approaches invisible.
... Ensuring energy security is a goal pursued by countries in order to maintain the efficient functioning of their economies and the population's access to reliable and affordable sources of energy. Growth in the world's demand for energy has led to the constant use of energy sources based on fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) [1]. This situation creates a number of problems, such as nonrenewable energy resource depletion leading to a threat to energy security, greenhouse gas emissions, the harmful ecological footprint of modern production, and in general, a threat to the safety of human life [2][3][4]. ...
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A systematic study of the influence of synthesis conditions on the structural, morphological, and electrical properties, as well as the electrochemical performance of hemp fiber-derived carbon materials was performed. An analysis of the capacitive response of carbons obtained under various activation conditions with additional treatment with HNO3 and annealing was completed. The contribution of the formation of an electrical double layer at the outer electrode–electrolyte interface, as well as on surfaces inside micropores, has been studied and analyzed in terms of the effect of the turbostratic carbon properties (average lateral size of graphite crystallites, pore size distribution, BET surface area).
... However, the overlap of public and private interest in electricity capital requires greater attention because it is a site where the pace and form of decarbonization is managed. Utilities have sought customer and state support to recover stranded financial liabilities fixed in fossil capital and switch to renewable energy capitalization (Knuth, 2017;Le Billon and Kristoffersen, 2020;Lehr, 2019;Trabish, 2019;Spivey, 2020;Kennedy and Stock, 2021). Regulationhowever opaque, ineffective, or contentious (such as when shaped through a process that Leah Stokes (2020: 25) describes as "organized combat")enables and circumscribes profitability. ...
This special issue considers the relationship between energy, capitalism, and space through the lens of electricity capital. Electricity capital is the nexus of state, regulatory, and financial relationships that shape private accumulation through electricity provision. Although electricity provision is marked by immense historical and geographical diversity, the papers in this special issue work to theorize it as a core fraction of capital to draw into focus continuities and disruptions in capital flows amid the transition from fossil fuels to a diversity of clean sources. This special issue bridges debates in critical energy studies, economic geography, and political ecology on the possibilities of economic transformation through clean energy infrastructure by examining the dialectic between private accumulation through electrification and labor, environmental, and environmental justice organizing for “energy justice.” This special issue sheds light on the contradictory social relations that shape electrical power provision. We understand that electricity is seen not only as an energy source but also as an investment opportunity, a climate change mitigation strategy, an employment prospect, a component of economic development, and a site of democratic, community organizing. In so doing, we analyze the regulatory, financial, and infrastructural impediments to energy justice and international struggles to decarbonize the power sector to address climate change and to achieve universal and equitable electricity service.
... While this is bad news for climate change mitigation, it should be good news for oil producers, especially poor countries with limited alternative options for exports. As oil's share within the global energy mix declines after the mid-2030s, there is a strong argument for poor countries to be the last ones to produce, so that revenues of remaining production can help with their 'development' (Collier and Venables 2014;Le Billon and Kristoffersen, 2020). Major hurdles, however, stand in the way of such an argument. ...
After three decades of work on the resource curse and anti-corruption initiatives, poor resource governance and dubious oil deals are still common occurrences. Despite the climate imperative of phasing-out fossil fuels, these ‘crude bargains’ open up new oil acreage in exchange for questionable promises of prosperity. Media reporting can play a major role in exposing these deals and the risks of ‘oil curse’, yet few studies examine the practices and impacts of journalism. Looking at the case of Guyana, this study discusses the interplay between international extractive sector governance initiatives, investigative reporting, and domestic policy reforms. Whereas investors and the ruling party see massive profit potential in Guyana's offshore oil deposits, critics say this upper middle-income South American country is selling out its natural bounty and getting little in return. Beyond questioning the rhetoric of oil-driven development, findings suggest that media reporting can help expose questionable practices, push for contract disclosure, demand clarifications from authorities and corporations, and motivate some authorities to publicly commit to reforms and even to move ‘beyond oil’.
... Recent articulations of this theme in IR include work on the shift from resource scarcity to abundance associated with fracking and 'unconventional' hydrocarbons; Van der Graaf and Bradshaw (2018), for example, show how the material properties of shale oil and gas give rise to an industry more akin to a standardised manufacturing process than the one-off, large-scale engineering characteristic of many conventional oil enterprises. Recent work also considers the carbon intensity of oil reserves held by states and firms, the extent to which this renders these assets 'unburnable' in the context of climate policy goals, and the international distribution of supply-side cuts to oil production in the context of rapid decarbonisation (Van der Graaf and Verbruggen 2015;Overland 2015;Bradshaw et al. 2019;Le Billon and Kristoffersen 2020). ...
... International cooperation can help build trust that other countries are taking action (Piggot et al. 2020). Absent international coordination, constraining supply from some countries can increase economic incentives for others to increase production (Le Billon and Kristoffersen 2019). Moreover, from the perspective of climate justice, "leaving the allocation of 'who may extract?' to market forces risks placing the greatest burden of transition on those least able to carry it" (Kartha et al. 2018, 119) and fails to address the structural inequities in market access and imbalances of power that allow incumbent fossil fuel industries to benefit from fossil fuel subsidies and other forms of government support. ...
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To achieve the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal, fossil fuel production needs to undergo a managed decline. While some frontrunner countries have already begun to adopt policies and measures restricting fossil fuel supply, an outstanding question is how international cooperation in support of a managed decline of fossil fuel production could take shape. This article explores two possible pathways—one following a club model and the other more akin to a multilateral environmental agreement. Specifically, the article discusses the participants in an international agreement; the forum through which cooperation will take place; the modalities, principles, and procedures underpinning the agreement; and the incentives to induce cooperation. The article concludes that the most likely scenario at this juncture is the emergence of club arrangements covering particular fossil fuel sources and groups of actors that, over time, give rise to growing calls for a more coordinated and multilateral response.
Amid growing recognition of the need for supply-side policies which set limits on the further expansion of fossil fuel extraction and use, in this article we consider possible elements of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FF NPT), behind which there is growing momentum. We elaborate on the possible institutional mechanisms, principles, procedures, and other elements of an FF NPT, by drawing on relevant precedents and parallels with other treaties and bodies of international law on the environment and other policy arenas, and proposals circulating in academic and grey literatures. We address in turn: the scope, objectives, and principles of an FF NPT; the three pillars of commitments under the treaty of (i) ending expansion, (ii) phasing out fossil fuels, and (iii) a global just transition; and options for implementation, including the review of implementation, compliance and effectiveness, a financial mechanism, institutional arrangements, and the role of non-state actors.
Fossil fuel producers have a major role to play in curbing greenhouse gas emissions through supply-side initiatives. Yet, no study has systematically assessed the determinants of efforts to constrain fossil fuel production for climate purposes. This article develops a conceptual framework for factors potentially affecting country-level initiatives to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Using data for 124 countries with fossil fuel reserves for 2006–2019 and multivariate Poisson regression analysis, we identify factors influencing the use of such constraints by national governments. Results show that although dependence on fossil fuel rents reduces the likelihood of constraint measures, the size of fossil fuel reserves or production does not impact the likelihood. Richer countries are also more likely to use constraints. Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries membership constitutes a barrier to having moratoria on fossil fuel extraction. These results can help identify potential members for new fossil fuel supply-side initiatives and coalitions.
The reign of the fossil fuel empire must come to an end if the average global temperature rise is to be meaningfully capped. Accordingly, a myriad of financial and non‐financial stranded assets will be generated in the process. Ample research has explored the implications for a South African fossil transition from a domestic perspective, but a lacuna persists in linking South Africa’s fossil regime to broader international finance flows, and particularly the role that actors from the “global North” should play in phasing out South African fossil fuels. This research finds that such institutions have exacerbated South Africa’s prospective stranded asset exposure, and by doing so, have accrued a Stranded Asset Debt (SAD)—as a supply‐side counterpart to the demand‐side climate debt, which they have also accumulated—perhaps to the tune of at least several dozens of billions of dollars. Although the Paris Agreement is flawed, it embodies language that can be leveraged to settle the SAD “bill”.
The Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)—motivated by the climate crisis that disproportionately affects them and is predominately driven by fossil fuels—has taken a lead role in pressuring the Group of Twenty (G20) states to phase-out the production of fossil fuels. This effort is central in the development of new “supply side” climate politics. Yet, many LDCs are at the same time receiving assistance from G20 nations to expand their domestic fossil fuel production. In short, LDCs are at a crossroads of leading supply-side climate policies that are essential in the climate mitigation effort, while also actively using G20 investment and capacity to extract fossil fuels. Resolving this tension is critically important for LDCs to meet their sustainable development goals and in the global effort to reduce emissions dramatically by mid-century. Here we trace the implications and dynamics of this phase-out/lock-in tension and possibilities for redirecting G20 investment toward low-carbon developments in LDCs.
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In this paper we explore how post-petroleum security is continually shaped by both the micropolitical practices of everyday life as well as the changing geopolitics of energy landscapes. We focus in particular on the two-decade long struggle over access to hydrocarbon deposits outside the Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja archipelago groups (LoVeSe), and show how local security perspectives permeate both national and international debates concerning the future of oil and the global climate challenge. These developments, we argue, are taking place in a paradoxical conjunction with Norwegian political establishment who along with the oil and gas industry insist on continued petroleum dependency as the only viable future. We further investigate how particular controlling measures have determined past, present and future narratives, and assess how alternative ideas that include multiple possible trajectories have found their way into national and global debates despite these efforts. The argument permeating this paper states that while oil remains a security concern to both proponents and opponents to oil development in the Arctic, the extent to which this situation is seen as a threat or a security provider varies greatly.
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Carbon emissions—and hence fossil fuel combustion—must decline rapidly if warming is to be held below 1.5 or 2 °C. Yet fossil fuels are so deeply entrenched in the broader economy that a rapid transition poses the challenge of significant transitional disruption. Fossil fuels must be phased out even as access to energy services for basic needs and for economic development expands, particularly in developing countries. Nations, communities, and workers that are economically dependent on fossil fuel extraction will need to find a new foundation for livelihoods and revenue. These challenges are surmountable. In principle, societies could undertake a decarbonization transition in which they anticipate the transitional disruption, and cooperate and contribute fairly to minimize and alleviate it. Indeed, if societies do not work to avoid that disruption, a decarbonization transition may not be possible at all. Too many people may conclude they will suffer undue hardship, and thus undermine the political consensus required to undertake an ambitious transition. The principles and framework laid out here are offered as a contribution to understanding the nature of the potential impacts of a transition, principles for equitably sharing the costs of avoiding them, and guidance for prioritizing which fossil resources can still be extracted.
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Meeting global and national climate goals requires action and cooperation from a multitude of actors [1,2]. Current methods to define greenhouse gas emission targets for companies fail to acknowledge the unique influence of fossil fuel producers: combustion of reported fossil fuel reserves has the potential to push global warming above 2 °C by 2050, regardless of other efforts to mitigate climate change [3]. Here, we introduce a method to compare the extraction rates of individual fossil fuel producers against global climate targets, using two different approaches to quantify a burnable fossil fuel allowance (BFFA). BFFAs are calculated and compared with cumulative extraction since 2010 for the world’s ten largest investor-owned companies and ten largest state-owned entities (SOEs), for oil and for gas, which together account for the majority of global oil and gas reserves and production. The results are strongly influenced by how BFFAs are quantified; allocating based on reserves favours SOEs over investor-owned companies, while allocating based on production would require most reduction to come from SOEs. Future research could refine the BFFA to account for equity, cost-effectiveness and emissions intensity. Open-access to the article is available at:
Renewable energy represents a game changer for interstate energy relations. The abundant and intermittent nature of sources, possibilities for decentral generation and use of rare earth materials, and generally electric nature of distribution make renewable energy systems very different from those of fossil fuels. What do these geographic and technical characteristics imply for infrastructure topology and operations, business models, and energy markets? What are the consequences for strategic realities and policy considerations of producer, consumer, and transit countries and energy-related patterns of cooperation and conflict between them? Who are the likely winners and losers? The Geopolitics of Renewables is the first in-depth exploration of the implications for interstate energy relations of a transition towards renewable energy. Fifteen international scholars combine insights from several disciplines - international relations, geopolitics, energy security, renewable energy technology, economics, sustainability transitions, and energy policy - to establish a comprehensive overview and understanding of the emerging energy game. Focus is on contemporary developments and how they may shape the coming decades on three levels of analysis: · The emerging global energy game; winners and losers · Regional and bilateral energy relations of established and rising powers · Infrastructure developments and governance responses The book is recommended for academics and policy makers. It offers a novel analytical framework that moves from geography and technology to economics and politics to investigate the geopolitical implications of renewable energy and provides practical illustrations and policy recommendations related to specific countries and regions such as the US, EU, China, India, OPEC, and Russia.
Despite the current ambivalence of the United States towards the Paris Agreement, national and local jurisdictions across the globe remain committed, and they are seeking ways to increase the ambition and effectiveness of their climate policies. One way forwards could be limiting the production — not just the consumption — of coal, gas and oil. Here we describe the rationale for, and CO2 emissions implications of, limiting oil production. Seven countries have recently imposed such limits, and we develop a case study for a potential addition to this group, the US state of California. We find that by ceasing the issuance of permits for new oil wells, California could reduce global CO2 emissions substantially and also enhance environmental justice in the state.
Energy and Society is the first major text to provide an extensive critical treatment of energy issues informed by recent research on energy in the social sciences. Written in an engaging and accessible style it draws new thinking on uneven development, consumption, vulnerability and transition together to illustrate the social significance of energy systems in the global North and South. The book features case studies, examples, discussion questions, activities, recommended reading and more, to facilitate its use in teaching. Energy and Society deploys contemporary geographical concepts and approaches but is not narrowly disciplinary. Its critical perspective highlights connections between energy and significant socio-economic and political processes, such as globalisation, urban isation, international development and social justice, and connects important issues that are often treated in isolation, such as resource availability, energy security, energy access and low-carbon transition. Co-authored by leading researchers and based on current research and thinking in the social sciences, Energy and Society presents a distinctive geographical approach to contemporary energy issues. It is an essential resource for upperlevel undergraduates and Master’s students in geography, environmental studies, urban studies, energy studies and related fields. © 2018 Gavin Bridge, Stewart Barr, Stefan Bouzarovski, Michael Bradshaw, Ed Brown, Harriet Bulkeley, and Gordon Walker.
Until recently, national bans on fossil fuel-related activities were a taboo subject, but they are now becoming increasingly common. The logic of appropriateness that underpins such bans is key to understanding their normative appeal, and to explaining and predicting their proliferation.