There is growing momentum to address climate change and other environmental challenges through a ‘green energy transition’, that is, a shift from fossil fuel-based energy sources to renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Despite aiming for global change, these efforts are still mainly concentrated in the Global North, where discussions about circular economy, recycling and e-mobility become materialized. To carry out this Global North-led transition, a variety of resources, particularly minerals – such as copper, lithium or cobalt – are required, that are primarily extracted in the Global South.
The extraction of these minerals is still characterized by high energy consumption, environmental degradation and human rights risks. To meet a higher level of sustainability, countries in the Global South are therefore expected to integrate energy-efficient technologies, renewable energy and due diligence in mining and processing of minerals. At the same time, these production countries are central to securing supply of minerals to the Global North and other industrialising nations worldwide; this while implementing an extensive energy transition themselves that leads to various socio-economic challenges.
The extractive sector represents a basis for development in many production countries and is expected to increase local value creation, as well as drive local and regional industrialization. At the moment, however, these countries are (again) often seen as mere suppliers of raw materials, faced with an increasing number of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) requirements, with much of the value creation taking place elsewhere.
In this context, particularly China remains an important player with high expertise and production capacity for green technologies and also as a middleman in many mineral supply chains. So far, there have been very few attempts to cooperate internationally (between the North and South) to foster increased value or alternative modes of production and energy sources.
This situation represents a dilemma for many countries of the Global South. While they are expected to function as suppliers for necessary resources to drive sustainability transitions in the Global North, they are on the other hand also expected to themselves drive domestic transitions while pursuing development and industrialisation ambitions. These competing narratives reveal the shortcomings of the current concept of the energy transition, which is often understood as a decoupled regional process rather than an integrated global endeavour.
A global understanding of the green energy transition must not only account for the impact of geopolitics or structural dependencies, but also of various domestic challenges, where different policy interventions need to be balanced to enable not only a ‘green’ but also a ‘just transition’.
We argue that the desired sustainable energy transition must be understood in a holistic way. A truly sustainable energy future will require re-conceptualising sustainable energy in a more comprehensive and integrated framework.
To this end, the South African Journal of International Affairs (SAIJA) is calling for papers that present critical approaches on the ‘green energy transition’, drawing on insights from Africa and Latin America for this special issue.
Dr Melanie Müller, Dr Svenja Schöneich & Meike Schulze
- Geopolitics & International Cooperation
- The ‘green energy transition’ is shaped by geopolitics and at the same time, has geopolitical implications itself, e.g. how are power relations with production countries expected to change?
- Which modes of international cooperation (international fora, negotiations, agreements) shape the global energy transition? And which policy spaces do Global South countries occupy in these structures? To what extent are extractivism and its consequences discussed in the discourse, and how might the Global South engage more effectively in that discourse?
- Which concrete instruments (both international, bilateral) are useful – or could be useful – to mitigate the dilemmas faced by countries in the Global South? To what extent are those dilemmas recognised by Global North countries?
- What is the role of actors such as China, which is a key player in primary production, as well as in other areas of the supply chain, such as trade, processing, and producer of green technologies?
- Domestic Politics & Questions of Justice
- Policy spaces and national priorities: What shapes the political economy of a just energy transition in country X or Y?
- What is meant by ‘sustainable’ or ‘just energy transition’ outside the European discourse? What are priorities of countries in Latin America and Africa? Are there commonalities? Differences?
- How is the question of justice at the local level, in the context of the energy transition as a global challenge, connected to questions of global justice and new interdependencies internationally?
- Mining/Responsible Sourcing/Added Value
- How can responsible sourcing be strengthened to reduce risks of domestic conflicts, human right abuses and environmental challenges?
- How are countries engaging with the ‘double burden’ imposed on them by current expectations internationally (simultaneous work on their national energy transition and mining exports with higher ESG standards)?
- What role does the struggle to add value play in the policies of countries with a former ‘traditional’ extractivist agenda, and how can greater value for producing countries be created to increase local development gains?
The guest editors will welcome suitable contributions that address any of these guiding questions but will also consider well-motivated contributions on related questions.
Prospective authors should submit their full articles of 6000 to 9000 words (excluding endnote references) by 15 September 2022 for internal review. Please send this as a Word document to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Energy Transition Special Issue”. Prospective authors have the option to send abstracts to the guest editors via the Journal Editorial Office (email@example.com) for internal review before an article submission. The subject line of the email should be “Energy Transition Special Issue – Abstract”. Please allow one week for replies.
Final articles that were approved in internal review must be uploaded by the prospective authors on Scholar One by 15 October 2022. Authors should expect to revise their manuscripts in February/March, depending on the speed of the peer review process.
Final articles will be published in June 2023.
- All submissions should be made online at the journal’s Scholar One site.
- Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should include the name and affiliation of the author(s). The second must be anonymous.
- Submitted articles must not be simultaneously under consideration for publication elsewhere.
- Articles should be accompanied by the following information:
- An abstract of max. 150 words.
- Key words or terms, to be used for indexing (5-8).
- A title that clearly demonstrates the theme of the article, for easy discoverability in library and internet databases.
- A brief bio for each author, for the ‘note on contributors’ at the end of each article.
- The name, title, institutional affiliation, postal address, email address, and telephone number of each author.
- If there is more than one author, please indicate which will serve as the primary correspondent on the paper.
- Article length should be between 6000 and 9000 words, excluding references and other endnotes.
- Please refer to the SAJIA style guide for more information on references and formating issues.
- All submissions accepted for further consideration will be subject to peer review. Reviewer comments will be sent to the author along with the Editor’s decision.
For any questions or inquiries regarding the project behind this special issue please contact:
- Meike Schulze, SWP (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For any other inquiries contact the SAJIA Editorial Office at email@example.com