European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discusses a potential new round of sanctions by Europe on Russian oil

After much foot-dragging, the European Commission proposed a cap on the price it will pay for natural gas yesterday. Fifteen of the union’s members had proposed such a cap to limit Russian energy revenues due to spiking gas prices since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but a group of members led by Germany are opposed to it.

The President of the UAE, a country in the Middle East, discussing climate change at COP27

As the United Nations COP27 Climate Change Conference closed Sunday, Egypt, this year’s host, hailed the agreements brokered there as a success. But there continues to be a gap between the climate-change commitments most countries in the Middle East and North Africa have formally expressed and their actual behavior.

Joe Biden promoting the Inflation Reduction Act

Financial incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles included in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act are leading to renewed trade frictions with the EU. While those tensions are significant in and of themselves, they mask deeper problems with how the IRA and climate legislation more generally fit into the global trade regime.

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Decarbonizing energy use by shifting to renewable energies relies on the extraction of minerals and metals that are primarily found in lower-income countries or fragile states. Accessing the critical minerals essential for developing low-carbon energy options brings us to what we might call the dark side of the green transition.

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The energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine has the potential to accelerate a historical transition from fossil fuels to a more sustainable and secure energy system. But to come close to keeping the planet from warming no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a decisive phaseout of fossil fuels is required.

Mining in Bolivia

Resource extraction continues to be a major source of revenue for both developing countries and wealthier nations alike. But the windfalls don’t come without risks. Meanwhile, the environmental impact of fossil fuels is driving the development of renewable energy sources. But the transition is slow to develop.

The Laziska coal-fired power plant near Katowice, Poland, where the U.N. climate change conference was held, Dec. 12, 2018 (Photo by Monika Skolimowska for dpa via AP Images).

The impacts of climate change are advancing faster than experts had previously predicted, and they are increasingly irreversible. But persistent climate skepticism from key global figures, motivated in part by national economic interests, is slowing diplomatic efforts to systematically address the drivers of climate change.

In May 2022, Australia’s Labor Party swept back to power with promises to get down to the business of modern climate leadership, and they’ve largely followed through on that promise. But the Labor Party faces an even more daunting challenge in its bid for global climate leadership: Australia is a major fossil fuel exporter.