Headline: Germany’s G20 Presidency: An Opportunity for a Global Energy Transition?

Together, the G20 states are responsible for over 70 per cent of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions, making them important agents for a global energy transition. But they are also a heterogeneous group of countries with varying positions on energy issues. What common principles do they share for a global energy transition? Can Germany use its G20 Presidency in the coming year to push forward the G20’s energy agenda? These questions were the main topics of a workshop held on 11 October to which the IASS invited experts from the scientific community, politics, civil society, and the private sector.

“Tough decisions needed” to meet two-degree target

As Sybille Röhrkasten from the IASS said, “Last year the international community took two important steps by adopting the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals. We know, however, that there is a considerable gap between the stated two-degree target and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions proposed by the UN member states. Some tough decisions are needed in the energy field worldwide if we want to achieve the two-degree goal.” Despite the rapid expansion of renewable energies, 90 per cent of the energy consumed still comes from conventional energy sources at present.

José Schulz, head of the foreign policy department for energy and raw materials at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, stressed that the global energy transition was a key issue in German foreign policy. Estimating a rise of 37 per cent in worldwide energy requirements by the year 2040, he said that failure to meet these requirements would hamper the economic and social development of the countries involved. Energy efficiency and renewable energies could therefore play a central role. “The G20 should strengthen its cooperation with regard to the transition to sustainable energy,” Schulz said. As a contribution to a global energy transition, Germany’s Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy have initiated the conference series Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue. Decision makers from all over the world meet here to discuss strategies for sustainable energy supply.

China focuses on Green Finance, Japan introduces feed-in tariff scheme

Researchers gave short presentations sketching the specific characteristics of various G20 countries’ energy strategies. China, for example, is focusing strongly on “Green Finance” and is promoting private investment in environmental protection, renewable energies and energy efficiency along with sustainable transport systems. Argentina aims to increase the present low share of renewable energy in its electricity supply to 8 per cent by the end of 2017, rising to 20 per cent by 2025. In the meantime it is also investing heavily in shale gas extraction. Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan has introduced a feed-in tariff scheme for renewable energy.

Vera Rodenhoff from the Federal Ministry of the Interior pointed out that the Paris Agreement on climate has been ratified by over 70 states less than a year after its negotiation and that it will already come into force in November. She said this demonstrates a broad consensus about the necessity of achieving its goals and the concomitant transformation of the energy sector. Implementing the Paris goals is also an important task for the G20, she said. Governments should keep in mind the consequences of neglecting climate goals – not only in relation to global warming but also in terms of lost investments in fossil infrastructure (“stranded assets”).

“The workshop has shown that Germany has a major opportunity during its G20 presidency in the coming year to press ahead with the necessary decarbonisation of energy systems in the framework of the G20. Past G20 presidencies have already taken the first steps,” said Sonja Thielges of the IASS. She added that it would only be possible to meet the goals set in Paris through the implementation of existing plans and by raising the G20 countries’ aspirations in the area of sustainable energy.

The workshop is part of an IASS project on the G20’s energy policies. At the end of the year the Institute will publish a study with extensive analyses on energy trends and priorities in G20 countries.

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