Diplomacy of the right kind can help all countries reduce their emissions more quickly, without needing them to take a different view of their national interests. This means a focus on actions instead of targets, on sectors instead of the whole economy, and on a critical mass of countries in each sector instead of universal participation.

Materials I have written or contributed to

Accelerating the low carbon transition.

Victor, D., Geels, F., and Sharpe, S., 2019. Accelerating the low carbon transition: the case for stronger, more targeted and coordinated international action.


Makes the case for action-focused, sector-specific, plurilateral diplomacy to accelerate low carbon transitions, with specific recommendations in ten sectors. Based on the understanding of how technology transitions have happened in the past, how diplomacy has worked in other fields, and what problems need to be solved in each of the largest emitting sectors of the global economy.

Systemiq, University of Exeter, and Simon Sharpe, 2023. The Breakthrough Effect: how to trigger a cascade of tipping points to accelerate the net zero transition.


Maps positive tipping points in several of the emitting sectors, and the links between them. Defines and identifies ‘super-leverage points’ that could activate tipping cascades in the global economy.

International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency, and UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, 2022. The Breakthrough Agenda Report 2022.


Detailed assessment of the current state of international collaboration, and recommendations for strengthening collaboration to accelerate progress in low carbon transitions, in each of the five sectors of power, hydrogen, road transport, steel, and agriculture.

Ghosh, A. et al., 2022. The new way to fight climate change. Foreign Affairs.


Article by a group of prominent experts from the US, China, India, Europe, and Bangladesh, arguing for a more practical, plurilateral, sector-specific approach to climate change diplomacy.

Sharpe, S. 2022. Moore of the Wright stuff: COP27, cooperation, and calling peak fossils. Rapid Transition Alliance.


Blog arguing that there was more useful international cooperation happening at the COP27 climate conference that might have been assumed from most media coverage.

Topping, N. and Sharpe, S., 2022. Better than it looks: the way forward for climate change collaboration. Business Green.


Short article co-written with Nigel Topping, the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP26, highlighting progress in practical, public-private international collaboration on low carbon transitions as a cause for optimism.

Materials I have found helpful

Aklin, M. and Mildenberger, M., 2020. Prisoners of the wrong dilemma: why distributive conflict, not collective action, characterizes the politics of climate change. Global Environmental Politics, 20(4), 4-27.


Evidence-based argument that the political dynamics of climate change have been misunderstood, and that battles between interest groups within countries are far more important for policy than concerns about free-riding between countries – with profound implications for diplomacy.

Geels, F. and Schot, J., 2007. Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy, 36(3), 399-417.


Describes how government, business, and civil society actors can contribute to system transitions, with historical examples at the national level whose logic can be applied at the global level.

Perez, C., 2014. Technological revolutions and financial capital: the dynamics of bubbles and golden ages. (Book). Edward Elgar.


Describes how technological revolutions comparable in depth to the transition to a zero emissions economy have played out on the global scale in the past.

Way, R., Mealy, P., Farmer, D., and Ives, M., 2021. Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition. Joule, 6(9), 2057-2082.


See also free-to-download working paper version here: https://www.inet.ox.ac.uk/publications/no-2021-01-empirically-grounded-technology-forecasts-and-the-energy-transition/.

Shows how clean technology costs fall as a function of deployment, meaning that a fast global transition to a zero emission economy is likely to cost less than a slow transition, and either a fast or a slow transition will generate savings compared to business as usual – evidence for important coordination gains that could be accessed by international cooperation.

Energy Transitions Commission, 2016-2022. Making mission possible, and various other reports.


Reports that set out in detail the technical and economic challenges and policy options for decarbonising sectors including power, steel, hydrogen, shipping, aviation, cement, aluminium, and trucking – knowledge that provides an essential foundation for understanding how diplomacy could help, in each case.

Sabel, C. F. and Victor, D. G., 2022. Fixing the climate: strategies for an uncertain world. (Book). Princeton University Press.


An argument for an experimentalist approach to climate change cooperation, based on rapid learning by doing that starts small and scales up, instead of starting large and getting stuck.

Hale, T., 2020. Catalytic cooperation. Global Environmental Politics, 20(4), 73-98.


Suggests how governments and other actors can create ‘catalytic institutions’ that work to shift actors’ preferences and strategies towards greater cooperation over time.

Depledge, J., 2022. The “top-down” Kyoto Protocol? Exploring caricature and misrepresentation in literature on global climate change governance. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 22(4), 673-692.


Argues that the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement are much more similar than is often suggested, with the focus of diplomacy throughout the periods defined by both agreements being long-term economy-wide emissions targets, set unilaterally and subject to peer pressure but not to formal negotiation.

Barrett, S., 2014. Why have climate negotiations proved so disappointing? Pontifical Academy of Sciences.


Argument for the importance of incentives and penalties relating to both participation in, and compliance with, international agreements.

Action for change

The Breakthrough Agenda


Process to strengthen international cooperation to accelerate low carbon transitions in each of the emitting sectors, backed by 45 countries accounting for over 70% of global GDP.

Zero Emission Vehicles Transition Council


Group in which ministers from the governments of the world’s largest car markets meet to discuss how to accelerate the pace of the global transition to zero emission vehicles.

Energy Transition Council


Group of governments, international organisations and multilateral development banks working together to help countries accelerate the deployment of clean power.

Works in partnership with major philanthropies in the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet: https://www.energyalliance.org/.

Green Grids Initiative


Initiative to accelerate the construction of electricity grid infrastructure, including interconnectors between countries and regions, backed by governments, multilateral development banks, academic experts, and regional international organizations.

Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative


Group of countries working together with industry partners to create demand for low carbon industrial materials, beginning with steel and cement.

Global Maritime Forum Getting to Zero Coalition


Alliance of companies within the maritime, energy, infrastructure and finance sectors, working together to create the first green shipping corridors where near-zero emission ships can be deployed, with the support of governments including those party to the Clydebank Declaration (see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cop-26-clydebank-declaration-for-green-shipping-corridors/cop-26-clydebank-declaration-for-green-shipping-corridors).

Global MoU on Zero Emission Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicles


Commitment by a group of countries to work together to make all truck and bus sales zero emission by 2040.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Ambassadors


Small group of countries working together to increase the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels, to enable near-zero emission long-haul aviation; in partnership with industry leaders in the Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition: https://www.weforum.org/cleanskies.

Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative


Group of 24 governments working together to strengthen energy efficiency standards for appliances that consume a large amount of energy.

Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) dialogue


Group of the largest producer and consumer countries of forest-risk agricultural commodities working together to protect forests and other ecosystems while promoting development and trade.

Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases


Group of countries cooperating on research and development of agricultural technologies and practices with the aim of growing more food with fewer emissions.

Mission Innovation


Initiative for cooperation in the research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies, backed by 23 countries and the European Commission.

Clean Energy Ministerial


Group of the world’s largest countries working together to accelerate deployment of clean energy technologies, with initiatives in several sectors.

Mission Possible Partnership


Network of industry coalitions working internationally to advance low carbon transitions in several energy intensive industrial sectors.

First Movers Coalition


Group of large companies using their buying power to help create markets for zero emission technologies in energy intensive industrial sectors.

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