In the announcement of the Vietnam’s Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, described the JETP model as ‘game changing’. Though this term is overused, on this occasion it is justified. The JETP model – and the specific country deals themselves – warrant serious attention and support from those engaged in foreign, defence and security policy, as well as finance and trade.
JETPs are game changing because they bridge the divide between developed and emerging economies on the subject of energy and climate change. This is arguably the first time this has been done, particularly in a way that is aligned to the shared security interests of the nations involved.
JETPs do not consist of empty words extracted in late night multilateral fora that cover up fundamental mis-alignments of interests; rather, they are sums of money and commitments that target specific emissions goals and are backed up by an alignment of national interests. They have the potential to significantly reduce the coal consumption and carbon emissions of partner countries whilst fostering economic growth. Though the money is not yet flowing, and partnerships have not yet been delivered, the alignment of interests is indicative of the robust nature of these agreements and ensures that there is a strong possibility that goals are met.
James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, gave a clear elucidation of this in his speech on 12th December. He placed the JETPs in the context of upholding the international order, that though not perfect has delivered so much for so many, and doing so in the face of aggressive and authoritarian powers seeking to woo those who often describe themselves as non-aligned.
High level political agreements have been made with South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam. The details – at times via official secretariats – are being worked through, and the commercial sector, via organisations such as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, is being mobilised to deliver.
Britain should be further pursuing bilateral and plurilateral agreements, including ‘country platforms’, that both protect the climate and bolster the United Kingdom’s (UK) national security. Countries with the potential to align with these two objectives should be the partners of choice, such as Colombia and Nigeria. The limitations of international agreements on climate change leaves securing these arrangements as more pressing for the environment in tackling global warming and His Majesty’s (HM) Government in building relationships and being, as said by Cleverly in December, a ‘good friend’ to other, particularly less developed, nations.
JETPs have the potential to significantly reduce the coal consumption and carbon emissions of partner countries whilst fostering economic growth.
For the next five years or so, the UK will be in a strong position to make progress in this regard. This is due to the alignment of international aid and foreign policy in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
In fact, the UK has been at the forefront of this new model – strengthening bilateral relationships whilst simultaneously tackling climate change. It is one of the ongoing legacies of the intense diplomatic work and vision that was catalysed by the UK’s Presidency of COP26. And for all Britain’s imperfections, it demonstrates once again that as a home of fresh thinking, progress, determination and significant national capabilities, the UK has the agency and influence to defend its interests and those of its partners.
William Young is a William Stanley Jevons Associate Fellow in Environmental Security at the Council on Geostrategy. He is also Director of BloombergNEF.
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