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Political Science in Europe

Property Rights and the Institutional Foundations of Global Energy Transition

Environmental Policy
Green Politics
Political Economy
Tilman Hartley
University of Bristol
Tilman Hartley
University of Bristol

We are on the brink of the fourth grand energy transition in human history. Each previous transition - to fire, to agriculture, and to fossil fuels - has brought epochal civilizational transformations in economic and political power. In this paper, I argue that property rights institutions have played an important role in each of the previous energy transitions. In particular, I argue that the institution of property rights affects the way that competition for resources is managed, and that the management of competition over resources is an important factor in how resources become depleted. Further, I examine why particular decisions are made with regard to the way that property rights in substitute energy sources are instituted. Taken together, this suggests a general framework for a property rights analysis of energy transitions, which I test against a series of important case studies.
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