The BRICS, energy security, and global energy governance

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Abstract

Recent developments and shifts in global energy markets have brought adjustments to how consuming countries pursue energy security, here understood in terms of the accessibility, affordability, efficiency and environmental sustainability of energy. Changes to domestic energy strategies and international energy diplomacy are having implications for global energy governance (here defined as ‘international collaborative efforts undertaken to manage and distribute energy resources and provide energy services’). Thus, developments in the field of energy offer a useful vantage point to reflect on developments in global governance arrangements and the emergence of a new post-Western architecture, and the role of rising powers in bringing that into reality. The global economy is changing rapidly, with population and economic growth shifting towards emerging markets. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Virtually all the growth in world energy demand comes from these fast-growing emerging economies, especially China and India. By contrast, energy demands among OECD economies is forecast to barely increase. This chapter focuses on how the BRICS are responding to the intertwined politics of energy and climate change, domestically and internationally.
The BRICS constitute a heterogeneous group of countries. They do not share a geographical context, they are not a trading bloc, not are they united by cultural affinities or historical ties. In fact, they do not have many ties apart from the fact that they are rising economic powers, or that they are perceived to be. Two thirds of BRICS' trade is generated by China, placing it in a dominant position. Beijing acts as a counterpart in 85% of intra-BRICS trade. For each other member of the group, China ranks among the top three export destinations. Economic structures are quite different: China and India are pursuing industrial development. Brazil and Russia are counting more on the gains of commodities exports. The group includes three multi-ethnic and multi-cultural democracies (Brazil, India and South Africa) and two authoritarian states (Russia and China). All this taken together raises considerable questions about the cohesiveness and coherence of the group. At the same time, the group has gone a long way in institutionalizing; regular summits, an expanding agenda, a BRICS bank. While the role of BRICS in global economic governance has been subject to some degree of scrutiny, less has been said about their role in energy and environmental governance. When it has, this has typically come in the form of country case studies, with few limited BRICS-wide exceptions. Thus, this chapter contributes to the field by taking stock of recent trends in the form of shifts in the energy markets and the way they have affected and in turn been reshaped by the BRICS and also, theoretically, by reviewing the terms of the scholarly debate and conversations on the relationship between the BRICS and energy security.
The chapter seeks to engage the following questions: how do changes in the global economy and energy markets affect the BRICS and how are they responding to them? What role do they play in global energy governance arrangements? Are the BRICS revisionist or supporters of the institutional status quo? When and why does competition prevail over cooperation, and competition with whom, exactly? How do the BRICS relate to advanced industrialized countries and countries in the Global South, or with each other, for that matter? The main story this contribution tells is that of a rather heterogeneous group which struggles to position itself as a coherent entity as far as energy security and governance are concerned. This is not to say that no progress has been made (the 2016 New Delhi Summit forcefully added energy as a new area in which cooperation should be pursued by the members of the group, a point later restated in the 2017 Xiamen summit), but the diversity in economic structures and resource endowments of the BRICS leads to them pursuing different agendas and priorities. The BRICS are responding differently to the challenge of climate change and are responding differently and unevenly to energy transitions, although here the outlier is clearly Russia, whereas the other four seem to be eager to play an active role in nascent global energy governance arrangements. Overall, although the BRICS seek greater representation and voice in the current institutions, they do not share a vision of what a new post-Western order will look like.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Political Economy of the BRICS Countries
Subtitle of host publicationBRICS and the Global Economy
EditorsSoo Yeon Kim
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherWorld Scientific
Chapter13
Pages307-333
Number of pages27
Volume2
ISBN (Print)9789811202193
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Keywords

  • BRICS
  • Global energy governance
  • Energy
  • Energy security
  • Russia
  • China
  • Brazil
  • India
  • South Africa
  • Emerging economies
  • Emerging markets
  • Global governance
  • Energy transitions
  • International political economy
  • International Relations

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