Author: Emily Robinson

Olivia Lazard Carnegie Europe Fellow, Environmental Peacemaker, and Mediator was the inaugural speaker for the newly launched GSI Engagement and Policy Network (14/03/2023). Drawing on her knowledge of political economy and political ecology Olivia led discussions on geo-strategy and ecological security in the mineral age. 

The ‘Green’ Energy Transition 

Olivia began by stating that we are undergoing the biggest energy transition that humankind has seen, all under the pressure of a ticking climate clock. History informs us that when dominant energy resources change, so does political and economic power. As countries are forced to move away from fossil fuel extraction, towards renewable technologies, the scramble for materials critical to this transition begins. Thus so has the race to secure economic power.  

The ‘green’ energy transition will require an economic mobilization that is unprecedented and one, that is more materially intensive than before, putting a huge demand on the global production of silicon, cobalt, lithium, manganese, and a collection of other critical materials. For example, the International Energy Agency tells us at the current level of innovation, an electric vehicle will require six times more mineral inputs than a conventional car, with the World Bank projecting a 500% increase in global requirements of Graphite and Cobalt by 2050, to meet the demand for clean energy technologies alone.  

Olivia encourages us to ask ourselves:  

who currently exploits and processes minerals and where do deposits of these critical materials sit?

Because this will begin to explain to us how the transition will influence geopolitics.  

Conflict and the Race to Secure Mineral Resources

The discussion was bought back to present-day conflicts, where the invasion of Ukraine, is highlighted as a ‘ground zero’ of transitional warfare. Olivia’s recent research highlights that there is a disconnect between Russia’s discourse, which publicly has created a narrative that is indifferent to climate change, and national security discourse (dating as far back as 2014), that recognises the impacts climate change could create by disrupting supply chains, changing the energy landscape for good. Ukraine is the most resource-rich country in Europe, with an abundance of hydrocarbons, uranium, and critical materials. In July 2021 Ukraine became one of two strategic partners of the European Union, diversifying its supply chains.  With Russia deploying mercenaries and military partnerships with countries like Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mali, or Burkino Fasso, it becomes clearer that Russia is using wars of aggression to gain access to key materials. This would allow them to re-establish their position as a geo-economic power broker, leveraging power through dominating resource-rich areas, that other energy-intensive countries want access to. Russia is conscious that the markets of energy are changing and that it needs to cater to these changes by broadening its sphere of influence. Olivia highlights the importance of analysing the war in Ukraine in parallel with Russia’s manoeuvres in other countries in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, and East Asia, in a period where the landscape of energy is changing.  

Just Climate Transition 

The importance of rapid decarbonisation is not to be minimised in the transition to low-carbon energy sources.

We must recognise that in a world, where state actors will instrumentalise instability, whilst weaponising supply chains, there needs to be a change in the way we view transitions, recognising that energy security and climate security are part and parcel.

Thus, if Europe were to fail in prioritising a just climate transition, it will also fail democratically, industrially, economically, technologically, and socially.

Europe must identify how to form quality partnerships, that extend traditional systems of transactional exchanges and deliver climate adaption and mitigation, as the disruption of both climate change and a mineral-intensive transition are not geographically distant from Europe. Olivia’s work highlights that at present, our governance and economic systems are inadequate to face interdependent challenges connecting local with global realities, which threatens ecological security as well as human rights, by failing to mitigate for conflict and political instability.  

We must work collectively to find an economic system that allows for solidarity in the form of ecological, political, and economic diversity. 

If you would like to find out more about upcoming events from the GSI Engagement and Policy Network please email – to be added to the mailing list. 

Further Reading

Conference Link – About Beyond Growth – Beyond Growth 2023 Conference ( 

Recent work 

Russia’s Lesser-Known Intentions in Ukraine – Carnegie Europe – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 

The Need for an EU Ecological Diplomacy – The EU and Climate Security: Toward Ecological Diplomacy – Carnegie Europe – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 

Olivia Lazard: “Peace and Power in the Mineral Age” | The Great Simplification #58 – YouTube 

The Blind Spots of the Green Energy Transition | Olivia Lazard | TED – YouTube