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China is poised to gain global leverage with its dominance in clean-energy technologies, while poorer, fossil-fuel dependent nations like Libya are likely to be on the losing end in the world’s shift to cleaner sources of energy, according to a new report out today.

Expand chart
Adapted from "A New World" report by Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Why it matters: Fossil fuels, particularly oil, have been shaping history for the better part of the last century. Less well-known are the anticipated geopolitical impacts of the world’s slow, but clear shift to renewable energy sources, a transition set to play out unevenly around the world for decades to come.

Driving the news: The nearly 100-page report is coordinated by the International Renewable Energy Agency with input from experts and governments around the world. The United Arab Emirates, a major oil-exporting nation, has taken a leadership position on renewable energy by — perhaps ironically — hosting IRENA and the launch of this report.

The big picture:

“The renewable energy transformation goes hand in hand with a dispersion of power. The modern nation state and the fossil fuel economy have evolved alongside one another. The decline of the fossil fuel era and the advent of decentralized power generation in an increasingly electrified world may have profound implications for the role of the nation state.”

Highlights:

  • China is poised to benefit the most in the clean energy transition because of its leadership in renewable energy patents and its dependence on imports of fossil fuels, which would decline over time.
  • All nations heavily dependent upon fossil fuels are on the losing end, but some more than others. Less stable nations like Libya and Iraq are particularly vulnerable given they are less able to handle the transition than their richer, more stable counterparts that are similarly dependent on fossil fuels, like Saudi Arabia and Norway.
  • Renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, is inherently less vulnerable to geopolitical exploit given it’s not a tangible commodity like oil. Other concerns could arise, however, like clean tech dominance by countries like China.
  • Security choke points for oil, such as the Strait of Hormuz, could become relatively less important. Meanwhile, electricity as a potential geopolitical weapon or target for cyberattacks grows.

But, but, but: Many of the potential repercussions laid out in the report may only occur if there’s a relatively rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Some caveats...

  • Such a fast transformation would be likely if the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is implemented and expanded upon, as stated rhetoric suggests. But so far, actual realized ambition to cut greenhouse gas emissions is not living up to those stated goals.
  • In 1987, fossil fuels accounted for 81% of the world’s energy consumption. Thirty years later, that figure hasn’t changed, reflecting fossil fuels’ staying power even amid rapid renewable-energy growth.

Go deeper: Brookings: The economic case for staying in the Paris agreement

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.