G20 performance on energy
The data suggest that the G20 should generate fewer commitments with stronger politically binding words to improve its performance on energy – and Bali is well positioned to drive progress on global energy governance and compliance
The first G20 summit hosted by Indonesia is highly significant, as the G20 grapples with a confluence of unprecedented crises, led by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the existential threat of climate change. Indonesia’s theme of ‘Recover Together, Recover Stronger’ embodies three critical priorities of global health, digitalisation and the sustainable energy transition, all key in delivering a stronger and more sustainable economic recovery.
Accounting for over 80% of global energy consumption and 82% of global carbon emissions, the G20 wields significant weight in international energy governance. It plays a strategic role in driving a cleaner energy future. But can Indonesia facilitate an effective dialogue with its G20 partners on collectively propelling the energy transition, given the current, complex, compounding energy shocks caused by the war in Ukraine and exacerbated by supply chain issues and Russia’s tightening grip on oil and gas supplies?
The G20’s agenda has referred directly to energy issues since its first summit in 2008. The 2009 Pittsburgh and 2021 Rome summits figured most prominently, with 14% and 15% respectively of their communiqués dedicated to energy. Hamburg followed in 2017, at 9%, then Seoul in 2010, Cannes in 2011 and St Petersburg in 2013, each at 7%. Washington in 2008 and Toronto in 2010 were the lowest at 1% each. Riyadh in 2020 dedicated 11% of the communiqué to energy, the third highest to date. The 2014 Brisbane and 2017 Hamburg summits produced stand-alone documents specifically on energy.
Convening in March 2020 for the first time, the G20 Energy Sustainability Working Group met virtually under Saudi Arabia’s presidency. In offering support for the transition to lower emission energy systems, universal energy access and energy efficiency, it also acknowledged the framework for the circular carbon economy as a “primary initiative on reducing, reusing and removing greenhouse gases”.
Since 2008, the G20 has generated 169 energy commitments, fifth among all subjects by the number of commitments. Sixteen (13%) were made at Pittsburgh in 2009, dropping to one (2%) at Toronto in 2010, rising to 14 (9%) at Seoul in 2010 and again to 18 (5%) at Cannes in 2011. This fell to 10 (6%) at Los Cabos in 2012, rose to 19 (7%) at St Petersburg in 2013 and lowered slightly to 16 (8%) at Brisbane in 2014. Only three (3%) came at Antalya in 2015 and eight (4%) at Hangzhou in 2016. Hamburg in 2017 generated the highest number of energy commitments to date at 42 (8%). But this was followed by a steep drop to eight (7%) at Buenos Aires in 2018 and only two (1%) at Osaka in 2019. Riyadh in 2020 generated four energy commitments (4%), with eight (4%) at Rome in 2021.
The G20 Research Group has assessed compliance with 23 energy commitments since 2009, with a 70% average – consistent with the overall all-time, all-subject G20 average of 71%. Energy compliance ranks higher than that for gender, climate change, trade and development, but lower than that for macroeconomic policy, health, food and agriculture, financial regulation, and international financial institutional reform.
Compliance has varied over time with highs for Buenos Aires in 2018 with 89%, Seoul in 2010 with 82% and Cannes in 2011 with 81%. Lows came for Hangzhou in 2016 at 49% and Antalya in 2015 at 33%. The highest G20 energy compliers have been Korea and France, with 85% and 83% respectively, followed by the United Kingdom at 81%, then Mexico and Brazil, each with 79%. By June 2022, energy compliance with the 2021 Rome Summit was only 30%.
Causes and corrections
There are several apparent causes of and corrections for G20 energy compliance. First, the use of politically binding language in the commitments correlates positively with compliance. Commitments with more binding language, such as ‘we commit’ or ‘we will take steps to’, averaged 81% compliance. Those that reiterated past commitments or used less binding language, such as ‘we welcome’, averaged only 62% compliance.
Second, there appears to be an inverse correlation with the number of commitments and compliance, with the five highest complying summits averaging 82% across 69 commitments, and the six lowest complying summits averaging 57% across 86 commitments.
The same inverse correlation holds true for total words generated, with the five highest complying summits averaging 82% across 4,927 words and the six lowest complying summits averaging 57% across 6,484 words.
These data suggest that the G20 should generate fewer commitments with stronger politically binding words to improve overall energy performance.
Indonesia is well poised to propel significant progress on global energy governance and compliance, given its pre-summit ministerial meeting on energy transitions as well as several joint meetings, which synergistically combine the environment and climate change, along with trade, investment, energy and health. The severe global shocks brought by the war in Ukraine and Covid-19 will foster consensus on the global response to the current energy crisis, despite constraints and deep divisions among G20 members.