The University of Arizona

Combined and uneven energy transitions: reactive decarbonization in Cuba and Venezuela

Donald V. Kingsbury


Mounting impacts of climate change have increased calls for a planetary energy transition, usually understood as the decarbonization of the global economy. All too often, however, these calls rely on technological or legislative measures, betraying an apolitical understanding of climate change and insufficient appreciation for the uneven global distribution of safety, risk, and power. Through an examination of recent events in Cuba and Venezuela, this article asks how prevailing calls for energy transitions to post-carbon futures reflect the combined and uneven present, replicating the inequalities of late carbon capitalism. By considering the 'Special Period in Times of Peace' in Cuba, as the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union was known, and Venezuela's overlapping crises since 2014 as energy transitions, this article highlights difficulties along the path to more sustainable and just futures. It also calls to attention the intensely social, but potentially incomplete and reversible, nature of energy transitions.

Keywords: Energy transitions, Cuba, Venezuela, Special Period, extractivism, decarbonization

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