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G7 Energy Ministers Meet Ahead of Ise-Shima Summit

Brittaney Warren, Researcher, G7 Research Group
May 3, 2016

Energy security, sustainability, investment and clean-tech deployment captured the attention of G7 energy ministers at their meeting on May 1–2, 2016, in Kitakyushu, Japan. The ministers placed a strong emphasis on energy security, issuing an 81-page Progress Report on Energy Sector Support for Ukraine. Although lengthy and reflective of the unresolved conflict over Russia's annexation of Crimea, the report did not translate into an increased politically binding commitment to the Ukraine question. Only two of the 29 commitments made at the ministers' meeting call for G7 support of Ukraine and other energy-vulnerable countries. The prominence of energy security instead came within the bundled priorities of energy security, economic efficiency, environment and safety (3E+S). In total, energy security commitments made up seven of the ministers' promises, with the first commitment dedicated to reaffirming the principles and actions in the 2014 Rome Initiative for Energy Security and the 2015 Hamburg Initiative for Sustainable Energy Security.

The energy ministers' Kitakyushu Initiative on Energy Security for Global Growth builds on last year's Hamburg initiative. Both statements seek to foster economic stability and growth by increasing global energy resilience and decreasing vulnerability to energy shocks. Both emphasize the need to diversify energy sources in order to achieve this goal, with specific mention of rapid renewables deployment. The connection between cyber-security and energy is a shared undertaking, receiving its own section in both statements and highlighting the increasingly relevant, permeating and cross-cutting role technology has to play in global deliberations. G7 energy ministers showed further continuity in their priorities in repeating their reference to the Rome Initiative at each subsequent summit.

Yet consistent attention to specific energy issues risks stagnation if they are not fortified by specific targets and action plans to facilitate success. One example is the G20's commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, which contribute significantly to climate change, at the Pittsburgh Summit in 2009. The G20 has consistently reiterated its intention to realize this goal and have yet to reach it. Deference to the weak United Nations system on climate issues, most recently to the UN-led Paris Agreement, may be partly to blame. But the failure may also stem from the G7's contradicting promises to divest from and invest in dirty energy industries simultaneously. The gap between rhetoric and implementation also raises the question of what G7 members believe constitutes inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and whether some might be considered efficient and as such exempt from the phase-out plan.

A newly published study in the Energy Research and Social Science Journal finds that the world can transition away from fossil fuel dependence within ten years. Additionally, rapidly emerging opportunities for investment in renewables catalyzed by falling oil prices may offer a co-benefit of reducing energy insecurity by encouraging compliance with G7 commitments on diversification. Reassuringly, some progress was made at Kitakyushu when the energy ministers reiterated their commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, adding for the first time a goal to achieve this by 2025. In this regard, the G7 may be shedding some of its apprehension over the inevitable global energy transition — an attitude that the energy ministers' leaders would be well advised to adopt at their summit at Ise-Shima on May 26–27.

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Brittaney WarrenBrittaney Warren is a researcher with the G7 and G8 Research Group, the G20 Research Group and the BRICS Research Group, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She has worked in Spain and in Peru where she conducted field research on a sustainable development project with women living in extreme poverty. She has conducted research on the compliance of CARICOM members with their summit commitments on non-communicable diseases. Brittaney leads the social media strategy and marketing program for the G7 and G20 Research Groups' books and works on climate change, and was the lead researcher on an e-book project on "Delivering Sustainable Energy Access."

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