A lesser-known area of DECC’s work is in international low-carbon energy policy. UK media coverage is currently being given to an imminent milestone in global population expansion: there will soon be seven billion of us. To meet even the basic needs of seven billion people requires a prodigious quantity of energy. And whether you favour supplying that energy through the continued exploitation of the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves or through the development of cleaner, lower-carbon and more sustainable alternatives, one thing is certain: no matter how efficiently or cleanly we use it, sooner or later fossil energy will run out.
With an eye on the longer term, indefinite reliance on fossil fuels is a no-brainer. So even if human-induced climate change were not part of the equation – and I believe very firmly that it is – I think that logically, the world needs to be committing resource not only into sources of energy alternative to fossil fuel, but also into significantly improving the efficiency of our energy use. And promoting these two key areas forms a significant part of the work of DECC’s international low-carbon energy policy team.
There are seven of us in the team and between us we support the UK’s international low-carbon energy policy objectives through multilateral fora like the G8, the G20 and the UNFCCC climate negotiations.
One of the team’s current priorities is the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM). The CEM was established in 2010 and is now an annual meeting of energy ministers, intended to help take forward the rapid scaling-up of clean and low-carbon energy technologies on a global scale. CEM membership currently extends to 22 countries including the UK, who between them account for around 80% of global energy demand. The CEM caters both for demand-side and supply-side technologies: from electric vehicles, solar, wind and carbon capture and storage, to super-efficient appliances, best-practice and knowledge-sharing.
The next – third – CEM will be held in London in April next year and we’re expecting strong representation from member countries. The private sector will also play an important role at the meeting because although governments can implement the policy frameworks necessary to encourage and incentivise the scaling-up of technologies, the private sector is where the finance and expertise lie to make low-carbon technology an everyday reality.
2012 will be the United Nations’ Year of Sustainable Energy Access for All, so the CEM falls at an important time in the global energy story. Although six months ahead of the meeting it’s difficult to predict outcomes precisely, our team is working hard both across Whitehall and with member governments to create the opportunities necessary for strong outputs next April.
The CEM is a young process but is already making significant progress: the technologies it covers have the potential to bring fundamental change to the global energy system, from how energy is produced and delivered to how it’s accessed and used. In addition, the CEM is the only major forum in the world that brings together key governments to focus solely on clean technology and associated issues. We’re optimistic that the third CEM will be a significant step along the road to the global deployment of clean and low-carbon energy technology, and that in the longer term the CEM process will play an increasingly significant role in global efforts to meet the energy needs of an ever-expanding population.
Further details can be found at www.cleanenergyministerial.org