Power Shift


A book launch and conversation with Professor Peter Newell, author of the book Power Shift: The Global Political Economy of Energy Transitions.

17th June 2021

How to transition to a zero carbon economy in a timely and fair fashion is one of the greatest challenges the world faces. But contrary to mainstream framings, it requires a power shift away from the beneficiaries of a high carbon economy towards a disparate set of actors in the frontline of climate change and those that can gain from a more sustainable economy. The scale of the needed shift – across regions, sectors and actors – is without historical precedent. So how can we do it?

In a book described by one reviewer as “a genuine masterpiece,” Professor Newell argues that it is not for a lack of good technologies or pricing mechanisms that we are facing climate chaos. Rather, it is the concentration of power in actors and institutions that benefit from unsustainability and over whom we have limited control. What is needed is a global power shift, one that reshapes how we produce energy and how much we produce, that puts down limits on production and supply, that constructs a different model of financing energy, and that entails much stronger and more effective governance of finance for the common good. All of this requires not only comprehensive democratisation but also broad mobilisation of labour, environmental, indigenous groups and human rights activists to challenge dominant energy systems on a range of fronts. Taking a holistic approach, Power Shift is a landmark in the multi-dimensional understanding of a global problem that has so far eluded the most advanced policy, technology, and politics. 

Professor Newell offers an overview of his book, with responses from Dr Chris Hesketh (Oxford Brookes University), a scholar of international political economy and author of Spaces of Capital/Spaces of Resistance: Mexico and the Global Political Economy (University of Georgia Press, 2017), and Dr Hayley Stevenson (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella), a specialist in global governance, democratic theory, global civil society, climate change, and the environment, and author of Global Environmental Politics: Problems, Policy, and Practice (CUP, 2017). Questions and a discussion follow, moderated by Professor Christopher Newfield, ISRF Director of Research.

This is the seventh in the ISRF’s series of Book Launches.