By Neil Hirst
On Wednesday six major developing nations plus Russia agreed to pursue closer cooperation, or “Association” with the International Energy Agency. The announcement is superficially modest, but it’s of major strategic importance. It’s the first crack in the “Berlin wall” that has separated energy policy making in the rich OECD countries from that in the developing world. The announcement itself concentrates on making energy markets more efficient but “energy technologies, energy efficiency, and renewable energy” are also on the agenda. These are early days, and there is long way to go to make this initiative effective. But this statement of intention, at Ministerial level, is a new and crucial step.
The IEA, of course, is not a climate change negotiating body. But we will never get international agreement on climate mitigation until there is a shared understanding of the practical energy policies that can mitigate climate change at the same time as meeting other vital energy policy objectives for security, economic growth, and development. The IEA is where these issues are thrashed out amongst the OECD nations. Now the major developing countries are , in many ways, some of the most important players. Getting them around the table with the IEA, on an equal basis, is an important step in coming to grips with the world’s energy challenges. Developments in Paris yesterday may turn out to be of greater significance than anything that happened at the COP in Poland.
The countries who have joined with the IEA in making this announcement are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa. There is no certainty where this, initially limited, agreement will lead. But we may be witnessing a first step towards a structure of global energy cooperation that is genuinely fit for purpose.