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Albert, Michael (2022) 'The global politics of the renewable energy transition and the non-substitutability hypothesis: towards a ‘great transformation’?' Review of International Political Economy, 29 (5). pp. 1766-1781.

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This essay will investigate the question of how the renewable energy (RE) transition may reshape world politics. To date, most IPE scholars of the RE transition assume that renewables will simply substitute for fossil fuels and thereby continue similar patterns of economic growth and military competition that have characterized world politics over the past two centuries. However, they do not systematically consider what I call the ‘non-substitutability hypothesis,’ or the view that renewables will be unable to substitute for many of the services that fossil fuels provide for economies and militaries. In contrast, I will argue that if the non-substitutability hypothesis is correct, then a fully decarbonized global political economy would require a ‘Great Transformation,’ or a structural transformation in the political-economic and military bases of world order. In particular, I suggest that this would require two conjoined transitions: 1) a transition towards a ‘post-growth’ global political economy, or an economy that does not depend on continuous annual increases in GDP; and 2) a shift towards ‘demilitarization,’ in the sense of ‘leaner’ low-energy force structures; weakening pressure for military arms racing; and a transformation in national security priorities to focus on climate mitigation, adaptation, and disaster response.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISSN: 09692290
Copyright Statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Review of International Political Economy. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2021 13:10

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