As China pursues shale gas exploration and development, it could draw some lessons—both positive and negative—from the experience in the United States. Indeed, it is in both countries’ interest that their businesses and governments collaborate to ensure that when and where shale gas is developed, it is done responsibly.
In order to pursue shale gas development responsibly, three issues are emerging as potential hotspots for U.S.-China collaboration—environmentally smart development, energy security, and economy.
For the first time, the meeting of many of the world’s pre-eminent political and business leaders held an official “Climate Day” to discuss the challenges posed by a warmer world. The day and the Forum’s several events and panels yielded encouraging talk—and the potential for some transformative initiatives.
After winning Germany’s federal elections on September 22nd, Chancellor Angela Merkel is in the middle of difficult coalition talks to form a new government. Because Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats, did not win an absolute majority in parliament, it must find a new coalition partner. The party has begun negotiations with Social Democrats to form a grand coalition.
A new report from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that the world is still not taking enough action to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. Assuming countries deliver on the pledges they have made to reduce their respective emissions, the Emissions Gap Report finds that global GHG emissions in 2020 will still be 18 to 27 percent above where they need to be if warming is likely to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This gap puts the world in a dangerous position of experiencing increased sea level rise, forest fires, and other serious impacts--unless we take action now.
Germany’s energy transition (or “Energiewende”) is the most ambitious current effort to put a large industrial economy onto a sustainable energy path, recognizing the 21st century reality of a climate-constrained world. If the world’s fourth largest economy demonstrates that this shift is possible without undermining economic growth, it could be a major factor in enabling a global energy transition. And with climate change intensifying – 2012 was the 36th straight year of above-average global temperature, and 2011 and 2012 each produced more extreme weather events costing over one billion dollars each than any other year in recorded history – reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative for any future energy system. Thus, the Energiewende is critical to the ongoing fight against global warming.
Delegates at the April UNFCCC intersessional in Bonn, Germany made some encouraging progress. As negotiators gather again this week, it’s important that they build on this progress and take action on two key topics: raising ambition, and establishing core elements of the 2015 international climate action agreement.
Indeed, there’s an even greater sense of urgency since delegates met for the April intersessional. The world crossed a perilous and alarming threshold, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels exceeding 400 ppm, a level that has not been experienced in at least 800,000 years and possibly not for millions of years. Plus, this may be the last intersessional before COP 19 in Warsaw in November. Negotiators must move forward on raising ambition and establishing the 2015 Agreement if COP 19 is to have a successful outcome.
Raising Ambition Now
The need for countries to make more ambitious emissions-reduction commitments remains self-evident—even more so, now that the world has exceeded 400 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In Bonn, negotiators are set to focus on the transformation of the energy system.
Germany is in the midst of an unprecedented clean energy revolution. Thanks to the “Energiewende,” a strategy to revamp the national energy system, Germany aims to reduce its overall energy consumption and move to 80 percent renewable energy by 2050. The country has already made considerable progress toward achieving this ambitious goal.
In fact, other countries like the United States can learn a lot from the German clean energy experience. That’s why WRI is hosting a German energy speaking tour in the United States this week, May 13th-17th. Rainer Baake, a leading energy policy expert and key architect behind the Energiewende, and WRI energy experts will travel to select U.S. cities to share lessons, challenges, and insights from the German clean energy transformation. They will be joined by Dr. Wolfgang Rohe and Dr. Lars Grotewold from Stiftung Mercator.
Last week, ministers from 50 countries convened in South Korea for a “Pre-COP” meeting to prepare for the upcoming UNFCCC conference in Doha, Qatar (COP 18). Ministers confirmed their commitment to negotiate a new international climate framework by the end of 2015, as outlined in the Durban Platform agreed to at COP 17 last year.
While the Durban Platform gave new momentum to multilateral climate negotiations, the emissions gap remains large: The greenhouse gas reductions countries are currently willing to commit to don’t add up to the global reductions needed to limit warming to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. It’s clear that leaders need new ways to increase ambition enough to close this gap and reinforce the UNFCCC.
In this context, we are seeing a renewed interest in “clubs” – smaller groups of countries coming together to act on climate change, complementing the UNFCCC process. The question, though, is whether such clubs can make real progress toward closing the emissions gap.