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Is BRICS grouping key to enabling a just energy transition?

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By Lamé Verre

· 3 min read

A few months ago, the BRICS bloc of top emerging economies took historic action when it admitted six new nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates.

While a lot has been made of the geopolitical motivations and implications behind this decision, perhaps the most overlooked outcome is the opportunity to put energy priorities of the Global South on the international agenda.

Among the new members, the United Arab Emirates has quickly made this a reality. Announcing during the Africa Climate Summit, working in partnership with Africa50, the UAE unveiled a new investment initiative that will deploy a staggering US$4.5 billion into clean energy projects across Africa. This ambitious endeavour marks a significant step towards addressing energy challenges faced by nations in the Global South.

Capital will ultimately dictate tangible change, and initiatives like this are the start of a comprehensive strategy to level up the energy industries of less developed nations. The new BRICS grouping is a unique combination of countries and an essential piece in this puzzle. Some emerging economies currently depend on fossil fuels to power their development, while others are leading in global investments and the growth of renewable energies.

As a result, the BRICS bloc is in a position to deliver a sustainable and just energy transition. There is growing support for the sentiment that while we must take decisive steps towards decarbonisation, the commitment to clean energy should come from something other than the cost of energy security and affordability for emerging economies.

Striking this delicate balance between energy security and the transition to net zero has proven difficult, and recent crises have only highlighted this further. Achieving global energy security cannot come at the cost of a rapid energy transition. So, we'll need to find routes to meet both needs simultaneously.

Countries with fragile, unstable energy systems and industries are justifiably going to be averse to pressures from developed countries to institute major energy transition reforms because of fears of political fallout, countries with unstable energy systems and industries will justifiably oppose pressures from developed countries to institute major energy transition reforms.

Therefore, it is no surprise that in many countries, guaranteeing energy security is more critical than energy sustainability in many regions. To overcome this challenge, we desperately need a more inclusive understanding of the developing world’s energy priorities. The expansion of BRICS, described as “very energy-centric”, will be essential.

The bloc now possesses resources to support a just energy transition and an essential understanding of the energy needs of emerging economies. BRICS members, new and old, must embrace this opportunity to elevate the voices of developing nations and emerging economies. After all, enabling a just transition can only be possible by creating a space where countries at different stages of development can understand and respect each other’s needs.

This article is also published on the author's LinkedIn. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Lamé Verre is a Fellow of the Energy Institute and the Co-founder and Chair of the Advisory Board | Lean in Equity & Sustainability. She also sits on the Global Future Council - The Future of the Energy Transition at the World Economic Forum

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