The G20 and Energy Sustainability
For the duration of the Russian Presidency of the G20, energy sustainability will be towards the top of the agenda in an effort to unlock global sustainable development.
Despite the acrimony surrounding the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in St Petersburg owing to the escalating situation in Syria and the possibility of military intervention, the G20, as an important instrument in the EU's collaboration on global energy policy —with the EU itself represented by the President of the Council and by the European Central Bank— is making steady progress on the topic of energy sustainability.
Under the Russian Presidency, this topic has been placed near the top of the G20 agenda, as Russia believes that the energy sector is a “crucial growth engine” both for G20 members and for the wider global economy, in unlocking world-wide sustainable development. According to the Russian Sherpa, Ksenia Yudaeva, energy market efficiency is an issue of critical importance for the Russian Presidency, as it was in 2008 when the G20 was created.
For the duration of the Russian Presidency, the Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG) —comprised of experts from G20 member-countries, along with representatives from selected international organisations— has been tasked with driving the effort to realise four key objectives:
1) Making energy and commodity markets transparent and more predictable; 2) Promoting energy efficiency and green growth; 3) Proposing sound regulation for energy infrastructure; and 4) Ensuring global protection of the marine environment.
Eager to make substantive progress, it is the explicit remit of the ESWG to deliver the following, by the end of 2013:
- A Finance Ministers' progress report on the G20's contribution to enhancing transparency and functioning of international commodity and energy markets;
- Recommendations for setting up a framework for forecasting commodity market volatility;
- Draft principles for efficient energy markets regulation to stimulate infrastructure investments and integrate green growth and sustainable development priorities into structural policies;
- Recommendations on the voluntary peer review process for fossil-fuel subsidies;
- A progress report on Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) oil, and an initial overview of the launch of JODI gas;
- A draft plan for a best practice database of green energy and energy efficiency policies and management approaches used by members of the G20;
- A fully operational Global Marine Environment Protection (GMEP) website as a tool to implement the GMEP initiative.
There have been two meetings of the ESWG thus far —a meeting in February and in July— with the first meeting exploring appropriate modes of enabling and co-ordinating interaction between G20 member-countries, participating organisations, and the ESWG. The most recent meeting sought to enumerate and summarise the outcome of activities undertaken in the intervening period, before finalising the clauses to be included in the G20 Leaders’ Communiqué.
In June an Energy Regulators round table was held in Kazan, Russia, feeding into the work of the ESWG, which resulted in the production of a joint statement containing their shared perspectives on “Sound Regulation and Promoting Investments in Energy Infrastructure in the power sector towards a workable world energy consensus.” Further to this, in July, pre-Leaders’ Summit, there was a G20 conference on commodity and energy markets entitled: "Sustainable energy: designing policy for the G20" where expert opinions were given about the future prospects of energy and commodity market sustainability and serious consideration was given to data disclosure activities supported by the G20.
The clauses published in the Leaders’ Declaration pertaining to energy sustainability (90 – 102) following the Leaders’ Summit provide few surprises, although interest groups are pleased that ‘access to energy’ and ‘affordability’ are mentioned in the very first clause, with poverty eradication and social inclusion being mentioned explicitly.
The EU is leading the way globally when it comes to energy sustainability, with the Commission having produced an ambitious “2030 framework for climate and energy policies” earlier this year. Combined with the progress that the EU has already made, the European Commission has also announced its “Energising Development” initiative, which ties into the commitment it has made as part of the “Sustainable Energy For All” initiative. This will “provide developing countries with the support they need to assist them in providing access to sustainable energy.” It is perhaps surprising therefore that, aside from stating that the EU’s objectives for this summit were “broadly achieved,” the joint statement made by the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy following the Leaders’ Summit failed to make a single reference to progress pertaining to energy. This statement was an opportunity to further emphasise the importance of access to energy and affordability.
Key to the Russian Presidency realising its ambition to unlock world-wide sustainable development by focussing on energy sustainability will be ensuring that the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors back implementation of recommendations made by the ESWG at their meeting in Washington in October.
Stephen N. Rooney