Market News

 November 04, 2014
G20 energy efficiency action plan appears to require little or no action

 The G20's "energy efficiency action plan" appears not to require G20 leaders to commit to any actual action, but instead asks them to "consider" making promises next year to reduce the energy used by smart phones and computers and to develop tougher standards for emissions from cars.

Despite the very vague nature of the 13-page document, obtained by Guardian Australia, an annex suggests China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa are not yet fully committed to taking part in any of the areas of the G20's energy efficiency work.

Australia has been resisting substantive discussions about climate change at the leaders' meeting in Brisbane in two weeks, arguing that the G20 is primarily an economic forum, but Australia's prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said it will be discussed in the G20's consideration of the energy efficiency plan.

But that plan appears to require leaders to commit to very little.

It proposes two new areas for G20 work -- a process led by the United States to "consider whether the G20 members could commit, in 2015, to strengthen domestic standards related to clean fuels, vehicle emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency".

Another group, led by the UK, will look at the energy efficiency of smart phones, computers, televisions, printers and other devices and "consider whether G20 members could commit, in 2015, to a global reduction in the standby mode energy consumption of networked devices by 50% by 2025".

Australia and the United States lead an existing group looking at the energy efficiency of buildings and will "report to the G20 in 2015 on progress". A progress report in 2015 is also all that is promised from groups looking at the energy efficiency of industry and electricity generation.

In the annex, titled "Participation in priority areas of energy efficiency work", Russia is listed as "tentatively" taking part only in the work on vehicle emission standards, and China as a "tentative" participant in the work on vehicles, computers and other devices and a long term plan to encourage finance for energy efficiency. South Africa is a tentative participant only in the work on buildings, industrial emissions and electricity generation. Australia is listed as participating in all the processes except industrial emissions.

The UK is listed as participating in only three of the "priority areas" -- buildings, financing and electronic devices, where it is leading the efforts. The US is taking part in the work on buildings and vehicle emissions -- taking the lead on both -- and also on electronic devices.

The executive summary says the document is "a practical plan to strengthen voluntary energy efficiency collaboration in a flexible way" and countries have "each chosen to participate in various areas of work based on their national priorities and key actions".

The chief executive of WWF-Australia, Dermot O'Gorman, said in its current form the "so-called Energy Efficiency Action Plan is little more than a commitment to keep talking".

"What we really need from G20 leaders in Brisbane is a commitment to act. Anything less is a missed opportunity. Energy efficiency could save the global economy trillions of dollars over the coming decade, so there's no excuse for further delay," he said.

The final wording of the leaders' statement after the meeting is still being finalised but it is believed it could contain a vague recommitment to address climate change through UN processes.

The energy efficiency action plan does not mention the words "climate change".

This outcome -- and Australia's resistance to discussing climate at the meeting -- have been attacked by the leading climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, who wrote for Guardian Australia that the latest "synthesis" report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be "high on the agenda" for the G20.

"The G20 is the most effective forum for the discussion of the growth story of the future, the transition to the low-carbon economy. Yet the local politics of a country of less than 25 million is being allowed to prevent essential strategic discussions of an issue that is of fundamental importance to the prosperity and well-being of the world's population of 7 billion people," he wrote.