Tuesday, 17 September 2013

G20 Summit agrees on cooperation on sustainability

G20 Summit agrees on cooperation on sustainability*

by Dr David Lowry
While the latest G20 leaders' summit in St Petersburg last week primarily concentrated on Syria and tax reform, some important, but little noticed, conclusions were released on sustainability issues.
The G20 agreed that its member states would "continue in cooperation with international organisations sharing national experiences and case studies regarding sustainable development, clean energy, and energy efficiency as well as development, deployment and broader application of related technologies."
Co-chair the ‘Civil 20' Environmental Sustainability and Energy Working Group, Vladimir Chuprov said on 4 September: "Our recommendations are based on the idea that the entire planet and human race are facing a challenge caused by global climate change. The overwhelming majority of scientists attribute it to the current economic and energy models, which we need to move away from."
The group's recommendations involve infrastructure projects including the green energy industry, the green economy, ending subsidies for fossil fuel, as well as ecological protection with the formation of a network of protected basins in the world's oceans. "We hope the G20 Leaders' Summit in St. Petersburg and subsequent summits will speed up our movement to the point where we won't be ashamed to hand over our planet to our grandchildren," Chuprov said.
The St Petersburg Summit, held over 5-6 September 2013, said in its conclusions: "We share a common interest in developing cleaner, more efficient and reliable energy supplies, as well as more transparent physical and financial commodity markets. We commit to enhance energy cooperation, to make energy market data more accurate and available and to take steps to support the development of cleaner and more efficient energy technologies to enhance the efficiency of markets and shift towards a more sustainable energy future. We underscore our commitment to work together to address climate change and environment protection, which is a global problem that requires a global solution."
Sustainable Energy Policy
The conclusions said that the G20 nations "welcome the Report on energy-related issues including on G20 work to facilitate better functioning of physical and financial commodity markets," adding they also "welcome efforts aimed at promoting sustainable development, energy efficiency, inclusive green growth and clean energy technologies and energy security for the long term prosperity and well-being of current and future generations in our countries."
The G20 noted the new World Bank report Toward a Sustainable Energy Future for All - which aims to promote access to reliable and affordable energy in developing countries - and recognised the importance of the sustainable and responsible production and use of modern bioenergy and the role played by the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP).
The conclusions also reaffirmed the G20 commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
Infrastructure importance
Sizable investment, including from private sources, will be needed in the G20 and other economies in energy infrastructure in the years ahead to support global growth and development, the conclusions note, stressing "It is our common interest to assess existing obstacles and identify opportunities to facilitate more investment into more smart and low-carbon energy infrastructure, particularly in clean and sustainable electricity infrastructure."
Russian President Vladimir Putin told a news conference following the G20 Summit on 6 September that a number of important principles in the energy sphere. Were covered, pointing out: "First, it is necessary to ensure the transparency and predictability of the energy and raw materials markets. Second, it is essential to encourage the green growth and support the world community's efforts to prevent climate change. Third, it is important to support the exchange of best practices in energy regulation."
Prime minister David Cameron in his report to Parliament of the G20 summit, on 9 September told the Labour chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley, who asked on the G20 Summit why was there no mention of the three E -: environment, clean energy and energy efficiency - that: "Those issues are addressed in the summit communiqué, which points to some progress on important areas such as climate change. Also, the high-level panel that I chaired has at its heart the idea of sustainable development being the way that we increase the world's resources."
Outline of G20 energy agenda
The Mexican G20 Presidency highlighted the importance of inclusive green growth, sustainable development and energy efficiency as further critical elements of the policy equation. According to estimates of the International Energy Agency, "improvements in energy efficiency alone could result in reductions in greenhouse gases of as much as 60% by 2030, and "enhanced energy efficiency could also increase productivity and competitiveness of economies while minimizing their environmental impact at the same time."
To use time more efficiently and to promote an understanding of the cohesive character of the proceedings, Russia announced it "will seek to run all the energy-related discussions within a single working group on energy sustainability," hereafter referred to as the Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG). The ESWG will be structured into the four work-streams, three of which are outlined below. The fourth is on ensuring global protection of the marine environment.
1. Making energy and commodity markets more transparent and, potentially, more predictable
2. Promoting energy efficiency, sustainable development and inclusive green growth
Rational use of available energy resources is another clear policy imperative. The Los Cabos Summit made an explicit commitment to seek further ways and means to incorporate sustainable development and inclusive green growth into the structural policies and energy agenda of G20 countries.
The Russian Presidency aims to ensure continuity, addressing the commitment through a number of discussions in this and the following work-stream.
Russia suggests a comprehensive approach to inclusive green growth, including the topics of clean energy and energy efficiency, while placing more emphasis on potential policy options, with respect for each country's specific circumstances and their own rationale for clean energy and sustainability (be it driven by economic, climate change or energy security reasons). It is "our strong belief that clean, green and sustainable development policies can win public support for their environmental benefits, and also generate economic and social benefits and promote development and growth"
3. Sound regulation for energy infrastructure
In the coming years many trillions of dollars will be needed to upgrade and upscale our energy infrastructure. The Russian Presidency believes that it would be beneficial to share good regulatory practices and non-regulatory options, which can promote sustainable development and attract financing to the energy infrastructure.
Potential deliverables:
■   Expert perspective on energy regulation as a means to stimulate infrastructure investments and integrate green growth and sustainable development priorities into structural policies.
■   Resource of available policy options and management practices in the field of energy efficiency and climate-friendly energies being implemented or proposed in G20 countries.
■   Findings of a number of expert workshops and seminars on selected energy agenda issues as a means of analytical support to the discussions of the working group, linked where appropriate to the face-to-face working group meetings.
G20 Energy Sustainability documentation
In 2013 the G20 energy agenda is being discussed in the format of the Energy Sustainability Working Group (ESWG) that integrates a number of earlier G20's energy related activities, including the Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency working group's activities and Global Marine Environment Protection (GMEP) initiative. The group engages experts from all the G20 members, as well as representatives of a number of relevant international organizations, such as the International Energy Forum (IEF) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), as well as the World Bank, the IMF and the OECD.
Meanwhile, SB has obtained a draft of a European Commission Paper of the Commission Services containing draft Guidelines on environmental and energy aid for 2014-2020, which contains the following proposals:
"Under certain conditions in case of eco-innovation which can address a double market failure linked to the higher risks of innovation, coupled with the environmental aspect of the project. It is only in cases where aid is granted in a genuinely Operating aid for energy saving shall be granted only if the following conditions are met:
(a) The aid is limited to compensating for net extra production costs resulting from the investment, taking account of benefits resulting from energy saving. In determining the amount of operating aid, any investment aid granted to the undertaking in question in respect of the new plant must be deducted from production costs.
(b) The aid is subject to a limited duration of five years."

This article first appeared in Sustainable Building e-bulletin, 12 Sept. 2013


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