Governing the Dark Side of Renewable Energy: From Global Displacements to Accountability for a Sustainable Transition with Teresa Kramarz

When and Where

Monday, April 18, 2022 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm


Teresa Kramarz


About the Lecture

Renewable energy (RE) is critical for curbing global greenhouse gas emissions. While this is an imperative technical response to the climate crisis, a transition to RE is also driving a surge in demand for copper, cobalt, lithium, and other critical minerals required in solar, wind and long-life battery storage technologies. This increasing demand is displacing and degrading some of the world’s most vulnerable populations and regions.  Many scholars and practitioners are concerned with guaranteeing a steady supply of critical minerals, and potential threats to national energy independence. While some point to the social and environmental harms of extracting, processing, and disposal, they also suggest that costs may be justified because they represent less destructive alternatives to carbon-based development. However, such cost-benefit analyses provide only a partial account of the ways in which local communities, ecosystems, and national economies are affected.  Calls for “smarter” forms of mining and supply chain accountability highlight the research questions that remain overlooked and discounted. I present an analytical framework to identify the displacement effects of these technologies, thereby contributing to a broader discussion of what needs to be governed for a sustainable transition.  I examine three broad types of displacements: by dispossession, degradation and through commodity-dependent development. Then, drawing from an original database of transnational accountability mechanisms, I evaluate emerging norms, rules, and institutions to reveal what is, and is not being governed globally and how. Identifying accountability ‘gaps,’ ‘traps’ and some ‘victory laps’ provides a more comprehensive roadmap for future RE governance.

About the Speaker

Teresa Kramarz is Associate Professor, Teaching Stream at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in the University of Toronto.  She directs the Munk One undergraduate program, co-directs the Environmental Governance Lab (with Steven Bernstein and Matthew  Hoffmann, University of Toronto) and is the co-convener of the Accountability in Global Environmental Governance Task Force of the Earth System Governance network (with Susan Park, University of Sydney).  Her work focuses on the governance of extractive industries in the renewable energy transition, environmental accountability, and the performance of multistakeholder partnerships led by international organizations. Dr. Kramarz is the author of three books - “Global Environmental Governance and the Accountability Trap” and “Forgotten Values: The World Bank and Environmental Partnerships” both published by MIT Press and most recently “Populist Moments and Extractivist States in Venezuela and Ecuador: The People's Oil?” Recent articles appear in Environmental Politics, Global Environmental Politics, Energy Research and Social Science, Society and Natural Resources, Environmental Policy and Governance, and Review of Policy Research. She has been working on environmental policy and governance issues for over 25 years starting as an international civil servant in the World Bank and United Nations Development Programme and then as a scholar.

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