Energy Efficiency at the G20: Collaborating Internationally for a Sustainable Future
Photo by IISD/ENB | Angeles Estrada Vigil
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In November 2014, G20 Leaders adopted the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which sets the ground for voluntary energy efficiency cooperation in six areas.

In 2016, this framework was expanded in the G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Programme (EELP) – the G20’s first long-term plan for energy efficiency up to 2030.

Thanks to the G20’s leadership, we are better placed now to make the most of the energy efficiency opportunities before us.

The world needs energy efficiency, now more than ever. It is cost-effective, cross-cutting, and can benefit all individuals and communities around the world. Energy efficiency is also a key to climate action.

Through energy efficiency, countries can achieve up to a third of the energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions necessary by 2030 to keep global warming to well below 2°C, in line with the Paris Agreement. This is the single largest contribution to global reductions. It even exceeds that of renewable energy, which is also much-needed. To realize this potential, energy efficiency can benefit greatly from international action, and this is where the G20 and international collaboration have a big role to play.

Since 2014, energy efficiency has been one of the G20’s energy priorities. In November 2014, G20 Leaders adopted the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which sets the ground for voluntary energy efficiency cooperation in six areas: appliances, buildings, industry, electricity generation, transport and cross-sectoral issues, including data and finance.

International collaboration can therefore greatly hasten the adoption and implementation of domestic energy efficiency policies.

In 2016, this framework was expanded in the G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Programme (EELP) – the G20’s first long-term plan for energy efficiency up to 2030. Under the EELP, the G20 and other countries work together in 12 technical task groups to support and advance the design, acceleration and enactment of national energy efficiency policies and programmes. Countries develop technical knowledge, build capacity and engage in dialogues on topics that are in line with their national priorities and ambitions. The International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), an inter-governmental platform dedicated to energy efficiency improvement, coordinates this work.

The G20’s long-term approach is particularly important because it gives energy efficiency just what it needs: time. Energy efficiency projects require long-term planning and support to mature and bear the best outcomes. They are part of a dynamic process that must be continuously engaged with, since the low-hanging fruits of energy efficiency, once picked, grow back. By providing a long-term framework, the EELP puts the G20 on a path to achieve the level of energy efficiency action the world will need in the coming years. Most importantly, the EELP shows the very best of international collaboration: how countries can discuss, decide and act together to do more for the world.

By strengthening international cooperation on energy efficiency we can make a real difference for economies and climate change, individuals and businesses. This is because energy efficiency never comes out of a vacuum. To become a reality, energy efficiency requires a set of ingredients: political will; special human, technical and institutional capacities; massive data gathering and analysis; and dedicated tools and instruments, such as metrics, ratings and monitoring. International cooperation can provide the crucial first step by creating the right environment for exchange and collaboration, and by giving the political signal that energy efficiency is important and must be taken further.

It is true that energy efficiency is by nature domestic and very local, and its solutions are the results of very granular decisions and investments. International cooperation however does not seek to replace or to supersede national policies. Instead, when properly established, collaboration can: accelerate the exchange of information; help identify technical opportunities for regional harmonisation; and ensure the mobilisation of key partners by national governments – typically financial institutions. International collaboration can therefore greatly hasten the adoption and implementation of domestic energy efficiency policies, something we must not forget as new political realities lead some countries to retreat from cooperative action.

Thanks to the G20’s leadership, we are better placed now to make the most of the energy efficiency opportunities before us. We must not forget however that it took many years for energy efficiency to gain the attention it deserves. More can and must be done to create a sustainable future, including by doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030, as called for by SDG 7. In particular, we need to increase financial flows toward energy efficiency investments. To this end, cooperation can also be of help.

In May 2017, the IPEEC-G20 Energy Efficiency Finance Task Group (EEFTG) – co-led by the Governments of France and Mexico – launched the G20 Energy Efficiency Investment Toolkit. The Toolkit gathers policy options, financing tools and current best practices from 15 participating G20 countries, 122 banks, and over US$4 trillion from institutional investors, as well as leading public financial institutions and insurance companies. It can be applied to a wide-range of countries. No single stakeholder can address the investment challenge alone, and the Toolkit – as well as the EEFTG – provide the collaborative framework to enable structured engagement and dialogue among multiple actors across different economies.

Energy efficiency is for everyone, and we must act in concert to realize its full potential. As G20 Leaders meet in Hamburg for their Summit on 7-8 July 2017, we must learn from past successes and recognize the continued importance of international cooperation, both for energy efficiency and wider sustainable development. It is only by working together that countries can achieve the transformation necessary to create a sustainable future.

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The International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC) is an autonomous partnership of 17 major economies founded in 2009 by the G8 to promote global cooperation on energy efficiency. Its member economies together account for over 80% of global energy use and 85% of energy-related GHG emissions. Since 2014, IPEEC has been coordinating the G20’s energy efficiency activities under the Group’s two plans – the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan (2014) and the G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Programme (2016). IPEEC is based in Paris, France.

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