Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Opinion

EU-US energy council should act as model for others

President Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen on 9 December to support the United Nations climate change conference, where he is eager to work with the international community to lay the foundation for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future.

Copenhagen presents a critical opportunity to take decisive and immediate global action, to build the institutions that we will need to combat climate change and to speed the transition to a low-carbon global economy. Agreement on – and implementation of - a climate deal at Copenhagen is critical, but will be weakened without effective corresponding energy policies.

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  • 'Energy is the prime nutrient that powers the global economy' (Photo: wikipedia)

The right kinds of energy and their distribution across the globe will determine whether the international economy can maintain production levels while meeting the climate change goals set out in Copenhagen.

Energy is the prime nutrient that powers the global economy. It is the common thread that connects many of today's global challenges, from rebuilding the global economy and combating climate change to forging new partnerships around the world. To ultimately be successful in combating climate change, we need a plan for clean, secure, and abundant energy not only for us for but for our friends around the world.

For these reasons, last month, President Obama, Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt, and President Barroso of the European Commission announced a new partnership that will help the United States and the European Union work together to meet our energy-related challenges: the US-EU Energy Council.

The Council will help drive diversification of energy sources, such as increased use of liquefied natural gas, solar and wind power and biofuels. It will facilitate cooperation in technical areas, such as energy efficiency and clean energy technology. And it will help us coordinate our approaches with other energy producers and consumers to increase sources of supply, diversify routes, strengthen energy markets in today's financial crisis and increase transparency.

The new Council will help us address four major trends that will likely shape energy policy in the coming years: rising energy demand, increasingly interdependent markets, a growing imperative for global co-operation to reorient away from fossil fuels, and a clearer understanding that energy and climate change policy are inseparable.

First, despite the current decrease in global energy demand, increased demand over the medium term will likely result in increased reliance on fossil energy resources, with its accompanying environmental challenges. Unless we act now with fortified partnerships, these challenges will move ahead with increased demand for fossil fuels.

Second, global energy markets are interdependent. Disruptions in one market can have adverse impacts in distant places. In this global economy, countries and companies must realize that we can no longer afford "zero-sum games." Clean energy and environmentally sustainable production are critical – as is maintaining global supply. A disruption of gas to Europe – apart from potentially severe humanitarian consequences – will have a direct effect on the supply and price of liquefied natural gas on a global basis. Instability of countries affected by climate change or by political volatility can also have dramatic effects.

Third, to ultimately reduce dependence on fossil fuels countries must work together to promote the development and commercialisation of alternative technologies and renewable energy, as well as improve energy efficiency and conservation. The brightest and most creative thinkers should be directed at this vital challenge.

The time is now to work with the European Union and other global partners and take authentic, concrete and quantifiable actions to exchange commercial ideas and address energy security challenges. Our partnerships must be standard bearers bringing about global co-operation and ultimately reduce dependence on fossil fuels. We must be leaders in promoting efficiency and developing alternative energy technologies. Together, we must pursue hydrogen and solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy.

One of the principal sources of alternative energy is via improved energy efficiency. Given that the largest sources of C02 are in the exceedingly inefficient thermal electricity and transportation sectors, there is a great deal of room for joint, international victories with the EU and Asia.

We are already engaging with other major energy players, such as Russia through the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Energy Working Group. We will work together in technical areas, such as energy efficiency and clean energy technology. And we will discuss new investment opportunities in both countries, while at the same time encouraging diversified supply routes. By deepening the US-Russia dialogue on energy, we will increase transparency and promote stability and predictability in our relationship. While we may not agree on every issue, we can work together to foster an open dialogue that builds trust.

Fourth, our understanding of energy challenges must include environmentally suitable sources of supply that are compatible with

climate change objectives that will be outlined in Copenhagen. Addressing energy security and meeting the climate change challenge are inextricably linked. Since President Obama took office, the United States has demonstrated its renewed commitment to combating climate change both by supporting domestic policies that advance clean energy, climate security, and economic recovery; and by vigorously re-engaging in international climate negotiations.

Domestically, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included over $80 billion for clean energy investment. President Obama set a new policy to increase fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks. And the administration supports mandatory emissions reduction targets. On the international front, the United States is working with its partners around the world to forge a strong international agreement through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiating process.

Global issues need global solutions and we can not go at this alone. A secure energy future is fostered by building relations internationally through many cross-cutting issues that will determine peace, prosperity and quality of life, not only for Americans, but for the world.

Richard Morningstar is the US' Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy. Julia Nesheiwat is a Senior Advisor at the US Department of State

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