Between September and December 2016, the Atlantic Council convened a high-level task force to examine the state of international energy governance, and to determine if and how the prevailing institutional regime could benefit from reform. The Report of the Atlantic Council Task Force on Reform of the Global Energy Architecture, co-chaired by David Goldwyn and Phillip Cornell, represents the outcomes of those discussions—outcomes that are designed primarily to support decision-making within a new American administration, but also ones that are intended to resonate for practitioners of international energy policy across the globe.
In 2016, a series of highly impactful and publicized disruptions provided a wake-up call to societies on both sides of the Atlantic making obvious their dependence on inherently unpredictable technology. Just before the year began, a targeted attack disrupted the Ukrainian energy grid, forcing its operators to fall back on decades-old manual processes, and a similar attack followed late in the year. The Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles was forced to shut down for weeks as a critical patient-care system was unintentionally disrupted by ransomware—a common plague that impacted many other parts of societal infrastructure through the year, including San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), US electricity providers, and hospitals in the United States and across Europe. At the same time, a botnet of poorly secured devices disrupted large portions of the US Internet and knocked more than one million German households offline. And while the Russian breach of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the associated influence campaign continue to shock many in the United States and beyond, the specter of hackable voting computers also cast doubt on the US electoral system in the lead-up to and aftermath of the presidential election.
The European security environment is at its most volatile since the Cold War, and much of the friction between NATO and a newly assertive Russia can be found in the maritime domain, particularly in the Baltic Sea region. This means that NATO must once again address the role of the maritime domain in collective defense and deterrence, and in particular NATO’s ability to conduct sea control and effect reinforcements across the sea. Germany, a key NATO ally in the Baltic Sea region, is currently rebalancing its navy toward the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser degree the North Atlantic, after more than two decades of tending to crisis management tasks. This presents a real opportunity to strengthen collective defense and deterrence in northern Europe and to help fill some of the capability and command and control gaps in the region.
Keeping America’s Innovative Edge lays out a strategic framework for how the United States can reinvigorate its innovative edge. As global competition in the tech space increases, this comprehensive roadmap comes at a critical time for the country. The report includes detailed policy recommendations spanning a wide range of key areas: research and development, emerging technologies, national security, education, skills training, diversity and inclusion, intellectual property, and more. Based on research conducted on-the-ground in US tech hubs, this in-depth study is relevant to stakeholders across federal, state, and local governments; scientists, engineers, and lab workers; university officials, administrators, and educators; and entrepreneurs, business leaders, and venture capitalists.
The global transformation of the electric power sector will be one of the key factors determining the success of the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Since the International Energy Agency projects that almost 90 percent of world growth in electricity generation in 2014-2040 will occur in developing and non-OECD countries, increasing investment in clean energy and changing the electricity mix in these countries are of critical importance. China’s role will be central, accounting for an estimated one-third of future electricity growth in the non-OECD countries.
Sixty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Europe faces its greatest challenges, and possibly its sharpest turning point, since World War II. The spectrum of possible futures for Europe is wide, encompassing everything from rebirth to disintegration. But, a strong leap toward greater EU-wide integration—as was sometimes the outcome of earlier crises—seems unlikely at best. Instead, this seems a time for smaller steps toward more integration, most likely in response to specific challenges, including: stronger external border controls; enhanced eurozone governance; or a more capable Common Security and Defense Policy. If the positive option is modest integration, the alternative future is one dominated by a clear break with past integration. A presidential victory in May by France’s Marine Le Pen could splinter the European Union, sending it into a tailspin toward disintegration. Even if this dire forecast is avoided, Europe—and especially the European Union (EU)—will face challenges that push it into entirely new directions. If the United States withdraws from Europe, for example, will Europe be forced to accommodate Russian demands? Or will that challenge foster stronger security cooperation among a core set of nations, to counterbalance a weakening NATO? And if Europe’s economy continues on a slow-growth path, will it be able to afford to respond to the challenges it faces?
Fresh water is fundamental to human health, social development, peace, and economic growth everywhere in the world. Yet in a great many places, and for a great many people, clean freshwater is scarce. Current trends on both the supply and demand sides strongly suggest that clean freshwater availability will become more challenging in more places in the future. As a result, water will become even more important than it currently is in contributing to the degradation of social, political, and economic systems in troubled countries around the world. Nowhere are these dynamics more evident or more important than in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where population growth and water scarcity threaten acute impacts in the years to come. An unreliable water supply can act as an important catalyst for instability, especially when present alongside other sources of discontent and unrest (such as ethnic, religious, political, or economic stressors).
On January 13, 2017, the Atlantic Council launched a major study on downstream oil theft at its inaugural Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Downstream Oil Theft: Implications and Next Steps draws on the launch event to examine the implications of the study's findings and to suggest tangible next steps in both further investigating this global scourge and beginning to confront it effectively.
"At a time when Russia is deliberately challenging US allies and interests around the world, it is more important than ever for the United States to renew its global leadership role and unite our allies behind a comprehensive strategy to defend our values and interests…The strategy laid out by the Atlantic Council presents a clear-eyed and comprehensive approach to relations with Russia that highlights the potential for cooperation on areas of mutual interest, while acknowledging the severity of the Russian threat and the need for sustained, US-led engagement to defend shared values and interests." - Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
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The European Union (EU), a vital partner for the United States, is facing numerous challenges, including massive migration flows, the UK’s vote to leave the EU (Brexit), and rising support for anti-EU and populist parties in upcoming elections in several European countries. In Charting the Future Now: European Economic Growth and its Importance to American Prosperity, the Atlantic Council’s EuroGrowth Initiative proposes pragmatic steps to restore European economic growth, safeguard the European project, and reinvigorate the transatlantic alliance.