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G20 Energy Conclusions Not Quite “Business As Usual” (VIDEO)

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In paragraph 17 of the official communique that ended the G20 summit yesterday, the group of most powerful nations stated flatly: “Increased collaboration on energy is a priority. Global energy markets are undergoing significant transformation.” At the Brisbane, Australia meeting, the group of world leaders asserted that strong and resilient energy markets are critical to global economic growth. Hard to argue with that G20 energy statement.

The G20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. In addition, each year the G20 president invites several guest countries to participate. In 2014 Spain became a permanent invitee, as well as Mauritania (2014 chair of the African Union), Myanmar (2014 Chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, Senegal, representing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, New Zealand, and Singapore.

Last weekend, the G20 endorsed principles on energy collaboration and requested feedback from each government by 2015 on energy priority options. Although the group earmarked gas as increasingly important and committed to improve the functioning of gas markets, the leaders devoted the entire 18th paragraph to the subject of energy efficiency:

Improving energy efficiency is a cost-effective way to help address the rising demands of sustainable growth and development, as well as energy access and security. It reduces costs for businesses and households. We have agreed an Action Plan for Voluntary Collaboration on Energy Efficiency.

As well as work on implementation and financing for increased efficiency, the G20 energy plan includes new work on vehicle efficiency and emissions, particularly with respect to heavy-duty vehicles. It also addresses networked devices, buildings, industrial processes, and electricity generation.

You may note, as I did, that the G20 communique makes no specific mention of using or promoting use of renewable energy. In fact, as Joshua S. Hill pointed out earlier this week, the organization’s track record on energy reveals that G20 governments contribute approximately $88 billion toward fossil exploration every year. Here’s the video.

Detailing exploration subsidies by all twenty nations, a new report conducted by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International concludes that with rising costs necessary to acquire remotely accessible reserves, in tandem with falling coal and oil prices, government subsidies are “propping up fuel exploration which would otherwise be deemed uneconomic.”

Subsidies provoked considerable debate this year, and the summit concluded with a “commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, recognising the need to support the poor.” The United States, China, and Germany volunteered to review their fossil fuel subsidies, and the European Union offered to evaluate the work.

India's PM Narendra Modi,  for the 2014 G20 conference ( highlight of specific talks on clean energy was India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declared enthusiasm for the subject. Modi told the group that increased access to affordable, assured, and clean energy for all should be a primary goal of the global community. He sees carbon pricing as useful for enabling the shift to renewables, especially in developed countries.

For now, the pace of his country’s development means that Modi’s ideal energy bouquet  must include “clean coal,” an integrated natural gas market, and nuclear energy, which the PM characterized as “an important part of our mix.” But Modi also requested what the India Times referred to as “an ambitious and innovative effort to make renewable energy, especially solar energy, competitive with conventional energy.”

Yesterday, the Indian leader proposed that G20 energy nations create and publicly fund an online global center for clean energy research and development. Similar to a collaboration already established by India and the US, it would fund joint projects on diverse sources of clean energy, smart grids, and so on. India Times quotes Modi:

Energy efficiency is the best source of clean energy. In India, for example, building energy efficiency and efficiency in areas such as buildings, household appliances, and industrial goods is receiving strong attention…. Let us make an ambitious and innovative effort to make renewable, especially solar energy, competitive with conventional energy.

Modi cites India’s 10 MW Narmada canal-top solar photovoltaic project in Gujarat as an example. Its first year into the grid, the multiuse facility  will produce 16.2 million units of electricity. Five pumping generators along the Saurashtra branch canals will use the power for lifts. The project also saves water evaporation from both land and water surfaces. International accounting firm KPMG has listed it among the world’s top 100 infrastructure projects.

Another indication of the strong group interest in renewables came from Turkey. The Euro-Asian country will host the next G20 conference, and it has called for an agenda much more broadly focused than the Brisbane talks. Said Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu:

We want to be the voice of everybody. If the G20 agenda is only limited to financial issues, the G20 cannot function, it cannot have international legitimacy.

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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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