Clean energy deployment is gathering pace. China added a record 24.4 Gigawatts of new solar power capacity in the first half of 2017 while almost 90% of new power added to Europe’s electricity grids in 2016 came from renewable sources. The energy mix as we know it is being redefined.
There is a good reason for this redefinition. Achieving the objective to limit global temperature rise to well below two 2°C1 above pre-industrial levels requires an unprecedented transition towards a global clean energy system. But clean energy is not just about emissions abatement. It is also transforming the way we live – helping reduce air pollution, transforming the electricity grid, creating employment and fostering innovation.
Emerging economies take centre stage
As this expansion of clean energy technologies is happening, the dynamic within the energy landscape is also evolving. In the next 25 years, energy demand growth will be mostly coming from emerging economies and developing countries such as China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa.
Energy demand by region in the New Policies Scenario
Source: International Energy Agency (IEA), WEO-2016
1 At the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.
“Now is the time [...] to keep the wheels turning for ambitious global climate action. In these turbulent times, shared climate leadership is needed more than ever”
These countries are increasingly taking the centre stage in the energy transition. Low-carbon fuels & technologies, mostly renewables, will supply nearly half of the increase in energy demand to 2040, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest scenarios.
Bridging the climate and energy gap
As the geography of the energy demand starts to shift, the need for a truly global leadership to advance deployment of clean energy emerges so does the need to strengthen the synergies between clean energy and climate action.
“Now is the time [...] to keep the wheels turning for ambitious global climate action. In these turbulent times, shared climate leadership is needed more than ever,” said EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete ahead of his visit to China earlier this year. The visit was an opportunity to discuss Europe’s and China’s strong commitment to implementing the Paris agreement and both parties’ strong desire to accelerate deployment of clean energy.
China, EU and Canada push the agenda forward
China and the European Union have been increasingly stepping up their cooperation in clean energy transition and climate change mitigation, recognising that the common challenge of carbon emission abatement needs to be tackled by a number of partners and requires a joined up approach. The European Union, Canada and China joined forces to further advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement and to cement the states’ commitments to driving the clean energy agenda and further bridging the gap between energy and climate action by co-convening a ministerial meeting, similar to the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on climate action last September in Montreal, Canada.
The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) – a unique partnership
It is these three partners who are also the key actors in another forum – the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) - a unique global partnership of key developed and emerging economies working together to accelerate deployment of clean energy. All three stepped forward to drive efforts and host the CEM with China in 2017, the EU (jointly with the Nordics) in 2018 and Canada in 2019.
China hosted this year’s CEM in Beijing – for the first time ever hosting the event and heralding the new era of emerging economies’ leading the acceleration of clean energy and the commitment to shared leadership. The CEM couples a high level ministerial meeting with technical impactful work throughout the year in the areas of energy demand, supply and energy systems and integration.
The CEM concept emerged at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference of parties in Copenhagen in December 2009 when the then Secretary of Energy for the US Steven Chu announced the intention to host a Clean Energy Ministerial with the world’s major economies and a select number of smaller countries leading in clean energy. Since then, the CEM expanded, and is now bringing 24 countries and the European Commission together to promote, accelerate and foster clean energy across the globe. These countries account for 90% of clean energy investment but also for 75% of global CO2 emissions.
Under the auspices of CEM, India set quality and performance standards for LEDs, saving electricity equivalent to avoiding 90 coal-fired power plants between 2015 and 2030. The CEM also facilitated work in grid-integration, providing a toolkit and pathways to integrate 175 Gigawatts of renewable energy into its Electric Grid. Globally, the CEM’s work also mobilised efforts in the lighting sector, with a campaign to deploy ten billion high efficiency LED bulbs. The cumulative effect of the initiative would avoid 801 million tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to displacing 684 coal-fired power plants around the world. It is also advancing the electric vehicle deployment, with its latest campaign setting the objective to reach a 30% sales share for electric vehicles by 2030.
This year’s CEM ministerial meeting resulted in 58 new commitments related to the CEM Members’ leadership and participation in the current and newly proposed initiatives and campaigns, demonstrating not just the commitment to accelerating clean energy innovation and scaling up deployment of clean energy technologies but also commitment to the vision of ‘shared global leadership’.
“In the next 25 years, energy demand growth will be mostly coming from emerging economies and developing countries”
Participation in Clean Energy Ministerial Initiatives and Campaigns
30 June 2017
Non-CEM countries, non-governmental organisations, and private businesses also participate in selected activities and campaigns
Source: Clean Energy Ministerial
“The Paris Agreement was a huge achievement for international collaboration but now is the time for action”
Shared leadership and international collaboration
“EU-China cooperation is strong. Fighting Climate Change is our common challenge”, tweeted Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the EU’s Energy Union, after the opening of the eighth’s CEM meeting in Beijing.
The concept of shared leadership sits at the core of the European Union – the EU is after all one of the most unique economic and political partnerships in the world.
As Commissioner Cañete was clear that shared climate leadership is needed more than ever, so is the fact that the European Commission is uniquely positioned to drive real change, to corral and foster global partnerships and to strengthen its role as the lead supporter of clean energy transition and climate mitigation.
The Paris Agreement was a huge achievement for international collaboration but now is the time for action. This is fully recognised by the Council of the EU1 which during its March meeting on strengthening the EU climate and energy dialogue called for reinvigorating a joint EU climate and energy diplomacy, taking into account the changing geopolitical landscape. Recognising the positive impact of the transition to low carbon economy, the Council urged the EU to become the chief advocate and ambassador of renewable energy, including research, innovation and technologies.
Europe’s top assets
The EU is perfectly equipped for this role, with a toolkit of assets and instruments at its disposal:
The bloc’s climate and energy direction is underpinned by a robust and sound policy and regulatory framework. The framework includes EU-wide targets and policy objectives which aim to help the EU achieve a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy system and to meet its long-term 2050 carbon abatement target. The EU has an unmatched policy mandate to strengthen the synergies between climate and energy and to send strong policy signals to drive the clean energy agenda forward.
The EU is a strong leader, with a solid track record in driving policy agenda and its implementation. The EU’s leadership in climate mitigation is particularly impressive; having played a pivotal role in climate negotiations and the UNFCCC agenda but it has similar achievements in energy security and resilience.
The Commission has the right financial tools at its disposal to incentivise clean energy transition and climate change mitigation advocacy. The financial aid and research and development funding can unleash innovation and bring transformational change to the clean energy sector.
Finally, the EU has an unparalleled convening power of bringing key stakeholders to the table. This includes key governments from developed and emerging economies, but also the private sector. In this new changing geopolitical landscape, the Commission has an exceptional opportunity to reinvigorate EU Climate Diplomacy and to maintain climate change as a strategic priority in diplomatic dialogues.
These assets provide a comprehensive toolkit for global impact. As the global context for clean energy is changing, now is the right time to deploy them at scale as indeed witnessed by the Council’s clear mandate earlier this year.
“the EU has an unparalleled convening power of bringing key stakeholders to the table.”
Future of the CEM
Source: European Commission media library
This is a very special time for the CEM, which is entering a new phase of international collaboration. The CEM’s Secretariat has now moved to the International Energy Agency in Paris. Under its auspices, and benefitting from a comprehensive analytical base, the CEM platform can reap synergies from the IEA’s increased engagement with the key emerging economies.
Global political leadership in advancing clean energy is increasingly shared. Both Europe and the emerging economies recognise how the clean energy transition fosters economic opportunities, energy security, climate security as well as state resilience. With just over nine months to the next CEM meeting jointly hosted in Malmo and Copenhagen, there is a wealth of opportunity ahead.
Source: Clean Energy Ministerial
Commissioner Cañete and Vice-President Sefcovic both reiterate that the clean energy transition is irreversible. The Clean Energy Ministerial is arguably the most impactful policy platform for EU’s global leadership in this transition to clean energy. And with its so many assets, the EU is positioned like no other to step up.
"The Clean Energy Ministerial is arguably the most impactful policy platform for EU’s global leadership in this transition to clean energy. And with its so many assets, the EU is positioned like no other to step up."
1 Council of the European Union. 7019/17
Christian Zinglersen is the first Head of the CEM Secretariat hosted at the IEA. He previously served as Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, where he was a member of the Ministry’s Executive Board and was responsible for the energy policy portfolio. He also served as the Danish government’s representative and Vice-Chair of the IEA’s Governing Board; the Danish participant in the Director-General meetings on energy policy within the European Union; and Denmark’s senior-level representative, or “Sherpa” to the CEM.