Climate change and environmental degradation are considered existential threats to the European Union and to the world. In order to combat pollution within itself, the EU developed the European Green Deal. The European Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives which have the overarching aim of making the European Union climate-neutral by 2050. The Deal aims to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy, halt climate change, revert biodiversity loss and cut pollution. Because it entails a fundamental overhaul of the European energy system and because it ranks so high on the EU policy agenda, it will also change the relationships between the EU and its neighbourhood – and it will redefine Europe’s global policy priorities. As such, it is a foreign policy development with profound geopolitical consequences.
As of 2019, The EU imported more than 320 billion euros in energy products, with most energy products being gas and oil. A switch from fossil fuels to green energy products will cause a massive reduction in the flow of energy products and will restructure EU relationships with key energy suppliers. The leading exporters of these energy products, which include Russia, Algeria, and Norway will, ultimately, be deprived of their primary export market. Inevitably, Europe’s exit from fossil-fuel dependency will adversely affect a number of regional partners, and may even destabilize them economically and politically.
Additionally, a change in the EU’s imports will impact the union’s energy security. Being poorly endowed with domestic resources, the EU has to import 87% of the oil and 74% of the natural gas it consumes. Being reliant on a limited number of suppliers, the EU has developed over-dependency concerns. Currently, the European Union is dependent on Russia for around 40% of its natural gas and 27% of its imported oil. The Eu and Russia are interdependent because while the EU relies on Russia for its energy supplies, Russia relies on the EU for the profit which comes from selling its gas and oil. High dependence between states, however, can cause security concerns. This can be observed through the case study of the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia: The invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the escalation that followed have led to the EU imposing sanctions on Russian imports in order to discourage Russia's actions towards Ukraine. However, the EU's dependence on Russia as an energy source has limited the number of sanctions that the EU could put on Russia because an increase in the price of oil would result in negative economic consequences for the EU.
From certain perspectives, the European green deal can be seen as a way for the European Union to break away from its dependency on Russia because by reducing the continent’s gas imports, the Deal will solve Europe’s oil and gas security concerns. However, the European Green Deal can also create new energy security risks, most notably from the import of the minerals and metals needed for the manufacturing of green energy. Europe itself has no significant mining and processing capacities for these critical raw materials. Most of these minerals and metals are either geographically concentrated in a few resource-rich countries, or treated and processed in China. China specifically is a leading producer and user of most critical raw materials which will be needed more and more by the EU in the next decades. Hence, for Europe, dependence on China will further increase as the demand for green technologies increases. All this entails dependency risks, as increased interdependence could result in negative consequences similar to those seen in the case of Russia.
In sum, the European green deal entails major geopolitical repercussions which range from negatively affecting regional partners to affecting the dependency of the EU on trade partners. In order to successfully transition to sustainable green energy while maintaining its relations with countries which will inevitably be affected by this transition the EU should prepare to manage the repercussions in its relationships with member states such as Poland and Romania, important countries in its neighbourhood such as Russia and Algeria, and with global players such as China.
Belardo, Teresa. “What You Need to Know about the European Green Deal - and What
Comes Next.” World Economic Forum, 13 July 2021, www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/07/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-european- green-deal-and-what-comes-next/.
Wolff, Mark Leonard, Jean Pisani-Ferry, Jeremy Shapiro, Simone Tagliapietra, Guntram. “The Geopolitics of the European Green Deal – European Council on Foreign Relations.” ECFR, 3 Feb. 2021, ecfr.eu/publication/the-geopolitics-of-the-european-green-deal/.