Accessibility statement

Survival Governance: Energy and Climate in the Chinese Century

Wednesday 15 June 2022, 12.00PM to 1:30 PM

Speaker(s): Peter Drahos, Professor of Law and Governance, European University Institute

 Zoom joining link



To deal with the climate crisis we need a new paradigm of technological and social development aimed at the restoration of ecological systems—the bio-digital energy paradigm—and China is the world power best positioned to lead this change.

The climate and energy crisis requires a strong state to change the direction, speed, and scale of innovation in world capitalism. There are only a few possible contenders for catalyzing this governance of survival: China, the European Union, India, and the United States. While China is an improbable leader—and in fact the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses—Peter Drahos explains in Survival Governance why this authoritarian state is actually more likely to implement systemic change swiftly and effectively than any other power. Drawing on more than 250 interviews, carried out in 17 countries—including the world's four largest carbon emitters—Drahos shows what China is doing to make its vast urban network sustainable and why all states must work toward a "bio-digital energy paradigm" based on a globalized, city-based network of innovation.

As Drahos explains, America is incapable of reducing the power of its fossil fuel industry. For its part, the European Union's approach is too incremental and slowed by complex internal negotiations to address a crisis that demands a rapid response. India's capacity to be a global leader on energy innovation is questionable. To be sure, China faces hurdles too. Its coal-based industrial system is enormous, and the US, worried about losing technological superiority, is trying to slow China's development. Even so, China is currently urbanizing innovation on a historically unprecedented scale, building eco-cities, hydrogen cities, forest cities, and sponge cities (designed to cope with flooding). This has the potential to move cities into a new relationship with their surrounding ecosystems. China—given the size of its economy and the central government's ability to dictate thoroughgoing policy change—is, despite all of its flaws, presently our best hope for implementing the sort of policy overhaul that can begin to slow climate change.

Peter Drahos was appointed to the EUI on 1 September 2017. Prior to that he held positions at the Australian National University, Queen Mary, University of London and the Australian Attorney-General’s Department. Trained in law, politics and philosophy he has published widely on a variety of topics, including the philosophy of intellectual property rights, global governance, regulatory theory, patent law, trade and development, climate change and energy governance, and the protection of indigenous peoples’ knowledge.


Location: Online

Admission: Free, All welcome