In varietate concordia: Energy Multilateralism

In varietate concordia: Energy Multilateralism


Maria Cândida A. de M. Mousinho

After the Second World War, the institutionalization of international cooperation within the scope of the UN system emerged as a way of seeking to solve the economic, social, health and humanitarian problems that faced society. During the Cold War, cooperation appeared as a legitimizing instrument for the dominant powers, and, curiously, the environment of military competition boosted cooperation between the so-called developed and developing countries. Cooperation was based primarily on a North-South or center-periphery perspective. Milani (2012) recalls that in the scope of polarization between the dominant powers in that time (USA and USSR), cooperation could also be configured as a tool for transferring economic models in force in hegemonic countries to those with less influence, institutionalizing multilateralism of cooperation for the development.

It is important to highlight that cooperation is not a static model. While earlier the forms of cooperation established by the hegemonic states with former colonies and other nations were clearly guided by the criteria of support for one particular economic system, the criteria, in recent decades, have become increasingly complex, depending on the interest at hand. The idea of ​​international cooperation cannot be separated from the economic situation of the world in recent years nor can it be isolated from international energy crises demanding an urgent position from countries. Cooperation is, therefore, a representation of society itself: dynamic and procedural.

At the present conjuncture, when reflecting on the cooperation process, it is seen that this process must go beyond the statement put forward by Bruno Ayllón , who pointed out that for cooperation to be an effective instrument for sustainable development and for a balance between the North and the South, it must seek solutions to the challenges posed to the world in the post-Cold War scenario, which is controlled by the forces of globalization that have changed the conditions of access to investment capital, putting essential elements like sovereignty of nations’ in check, limiting possibilities and scope of foreign policies.

Contemplating the current scenario and the documents- the post-war international legal framework for cooperation by the UN, almost 50 years ago- it is possible to put in the road of discussion against the challenges that seemed to be embedded in a way within the status quo of global architecture. Sanitary and environmental conservation issues took up the discourse in an urgent and unprecedented way. In addition, international politics is faced with an issue of prioritizing the territory itself, not adopting cooperation as a survival strategy can be too risky.

Regarding renewable energy (RE), cooperation has been developed globally, particularly in the last two decades. At the multilateral level, considering the BRICS, it can be seen in all declarations since 2009 that the interest of those countries in intensifying cooperation in the area of ​​renewables is real. However, in practice, cooperation in RE can still be considered timid in a promising universe.

One of the ways to stimulate cooperation in RE, undoubtedly is through scientific means. After all, science needs cooperation to advance and scientific cooperation in RE contributes to the advancement of issues, i.e., economic, environmental and health. This also means that behind the collaboration networks, there are exchanges of expertise that, in addition to contributing to enrich scientific production and the dissemination of knowledge, can be configured as a geopolitical instrument.

Considering two countries part of the BRICS group – Brazil and India, and analyzing their scientific production in RE it was found that, in over half a century, the scientific production of these countries has had a significant growth, precisely from 2010 when its publications in the area surpassed all previous decades. Regarding partnerships or scientific cooperation considering all types of RE, 45% of all Brazilian publications resulted from the collaboration process; while in India, this resulted to 29%, despite India having collaborated with more countries. Of all the countries that have collaborated with Brazil, eight of them are considered developing countries (including India), the rest of the partners are developed countries. In India, among all partners, nine are considered to be developing countries. Brazilian and Indian scientific partnerships followed a similar cooperation pattern: developed countries have been the main partners of Brazil and India in all publications on renewable energy since 1945 – and despite Brazil being India's main partner in Latin America and India being Brazil's main partner in Asia, the United States, Germany, England, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, and Australia are their main partners in all publications in RE. Cooperation between Brazil and the United States in scientific energy production is about twice that of Brazilian cooperation with Latin American countries and US cooperation with India is 2% less than the total number of partnerships that India has with other Asian countries. Considering the BRICS, it can be noted that China, South Africa and Russia occupy respectively the 13th, 15th, 19th places in the ranking of countries that have the highest level of cooperation with India in their scientific production in the area of ​​renewables. Considering Brazil, those BRICS countries are even further away in the ranking: China in 19th, Russia in 20th and South Africa in 29thplaces. This also means that there is a need to make scientific knowledge less unequal and more competitive between countries, which will generate benefits for the entire international community.

Cooperation in renewable energy is crucial and when the world faces the biggest health (sanitary) crisis in history, there is an opportunity for an urgent change in the global political and economic incentives in this area. Undoubtedly, countries will be successful both in terms of competitiveness and in terms of improving techniques and exchanging experiences with economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical benefits. The increase in research, especially those with primary data, presents itself as a gap that must be filled to leverage opportunities for scientific and economic development. The time for further reflection on the development of scientific and technological cooperation in RE is fertile. Energy multilateralism weaves and stitches global architecture and all its spheres. The presence of intermediary countries in this game of interests assumes a necessary guiding role in order to keep global power structures in balance. Economies such as Brazil and India, when seeking cooperation in scientific and technological production, promote a more balanced and equal science; the science that is conceived in the South can be a reference for the development of research in the North, contributing to make issues related to sustainability a competitive advantage.

Dr. Maria Cândida Mousinho teaches at the Federal Institute of Bahia (IFBA), Brazil and also at the Multi-Institutional and Multidisciplinary Doctorate. She is also a fellow at the United Nations University with a project on Energy and Governance. Fellow at the Managing Global Governance Programme (DIE/Germany). She can be reached at