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Multilateral organisations and the limits to international energy cooperation

Wilson, J.D. (2014) Multilateral organisations and the limits to international energy cooperation. New Political Economy, 20 (1). pp. 85-106.

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Surging world energy prices, increasing oil market volatility and a nascent ‘energy transition’ are posing major challenges for global energy governance. In response, there has been a proliferation in the number of multilateral bodies addressing energy issues in recent years, and a wide range of organisations now claim a role in facilitating intergovernmental energy cooperation. However, the practical achievements of these organisations have been very poor, with all suffering difficulties that have limited their ability to promote shared energy interests between states. This article examines the dynamics of multilateral energy organisations, arguing that the political economy features of energy – securitisation and attendant patterns of economic nationalism – explain why they have failed to develop more robust cooperative mechanisms. Ten global-level organisations are evaluated and found to suffer from membership, design or commitment issues that limit their effectiveness in global energy governance. These challenges are linked to the securitisation of energy, which has led governments to favour low-cost soft-law approaches over potentially more effective hard-law institutional designs. Moreover, the securitisation of energy poses limits for how far multilateral energy cooperation can proceed and means that contemporary efforts to strengthen these organisations are unlikely to succeed in coming years.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Copyright: Taylor and Francis
Notes: Published online: 27 Jan 2014
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