The aim of this paper is to map the potential for nation states to adapt to global coal phase-out targets. An assessment framework using three core indicators: ‘economic health’, ‘dependency on coal’ and ‘carbon contribution to climate change’ is used to identify key constraints and contradictions. The indicators include 8 secondary measures. From a complete global list of 264 countries provided by World Bank, a final sample of 118 countries was selected, based on availability of data for the indicators. The sample was further refined using a two-step process. First, 118 countries were characterized according to their capacity to transition from coal (combining ‘economic health’ and ‘dependency on coal’) then divided into 4 groups of countries (A-D). Second, the groups were categorized by their level of carbon dioxide (CO2) contribution. This step resulted in a further refinement of the categories showing the different constraints to nations achieving set transition goals. In designing and analyzing our framework, we considered the importance of interrelationships between the measures. ‘Carbon contribution to climate change’ and ‘economic health’, in particular, show strong links across the evaluated indicators. Our research demonstrates a direct correlation between CO2 emissions and the size of national economies, as well as the important role of coal imports in transitioning market systems. Green growth is widely promoted as a lever for continued economic expansion. The new energy-efficient technologies and capital investment required for this environmentally sustainable economic growth, however, present significant challenges, particularly for nations that have historically contributed little to global CO2 levels. This article provides a comprehensive multi-step analysis of country-level dependencies that will shape the decision-making pathways available to individual nation states. Recalcitrant nations frame this pathway as a trade-off between short-term economic viability and long-term, even deferrable, climate security issues. While policy platforms that defer climate action are becoming deeply unpopular in most democratic societies, there remains the fundamental question of how coal-dependent nations will stabilize their economies in the absence of coal. In a choice between imperfec talternatives, conservative politics appears to gravitate towards maintaining a cautious balance of market protectionism with the façade of supporting incremental investments in cleaner energy alternatives.
Svobodova, K., Owen, J. R., Harris, J., & Worden, S. (2020). Complexities and contradictions in the global energy transition: A reevaluation of country-level factors and dependencies, Applied Energy, 265. doi: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2020.114778