The Role of Energy Policy in International Cooperation

Parliamentary Breakfast at German Bundestag

The impacts of climate change are visible across the world. People in the Global South, in particular, are facing increasingly extreme weather events that often lead to life-threatening crises. “The climate crisis calls for a realignment of our foreign and development policy. This also means that countries particularly impacted by the climate crisis get our support. This must become a central target of our international cooperation,” says Frithjof Schmidt, Member of the German Parliament for The Greens. Klaus Mindrup, MP for the Social Democratic Party added: “Germany must take responsibility here in a double sense: with regard to the responsibility for past emissions, as well as the responsibility for future generations. This requires radical changes of our behavior, our economies and in our international cooperation.”

What these changes entail and how the energy transition influences international cooperation was discussed among some 25 German Parliamentarians and experts discussed in the German Bundestag in June 2019. A key question was how German parliamentarians and German development policies can support Renewable Energies in the Global South to boost sustainable development.

Jahangir Masum, Executive Director of Coastal Development Partnership Bangladesh showed how this may look like in the case of Bangladesh. “Through the promotion of renewable energies in the framework of bilateral and international development cooperation, Germany can not only help to solve the climate crisis, but also to enable development opportunities in my home country,” he said. As part of the parliamentary debate, he presented a new scientific study outlining how Bangladesh can move towards a 100% Renewable Energy (EE) based energy supply within one generation, thereby improving people’s living standards. The study was compiled by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and accompanied by the three civil society organizations Coastal Development Partnership (CDP), Bread for the World and World Future Council through a multi-actor process.

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points out, global peak of emissions must be reached by 2020 in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. After this time, the emissions of all greenhouse gases must fall sharply and be reduced to net-zero by 2050. CO2 emissions, which are mainly released when burning fossil fuels, have to be reduced even faster. The Paris Agreement therefore signals nothing less than the immediate global energy transition, away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energies. Since the infrastructures for the year 2050 are already built today, new investments in the energy sector must already be 100% renewables. This is particularly the case in developing countries, where infrastructure investments for energy access and sustainable development are pressing issues.

Meanwhile, sufficient energy supply is the key to economic and social development. Therefore, the Paris Agreement also marks a turning point for development policy. Investment in the energy sector, as well as the development of energy policy plans, now play a key role in development policy. In order to combat widespread poverty, countries in the Global South face the challenge of providing their population with access to energy sources and a secure energy supply. There is a direct link between poor energy supply and poverty. Since 2015, this has also been highlighted by the international community within the framework of the 17 Sustainability Goals (SDGs). In the context of the Paris Agreement, securing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, as called for by the UN goals, can only mean that developing countries will build an energy system within the next decade that will leaves no one behind, is based on the efficiency-first princpiple and uses only renewable energy sources. At the same time, donors such as Germany and the EU but also international organizations such as the World Bank and Development Banks must support their partner countries in this endeavor and include this principle in their international cooperation. In summary, this means that the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals are creating a paradigm shift in development and energy policies, building on the principle of a 100% renewable energy supply and committing governments to holistically linking the two.

Bärbel Höhn, former MP of the German Bundestag, acting Special Representative for Energy in Africa of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as Chairwoman of the Global Renewables Congress, stated: “Renewable energies allow us to replace hunger and poverty with electricity and energy.” She reported on how her experiences show that two thirds of the SDGs can be achieved through renewable energies: for example, the promotion of women’s rights (gender and health issues), climate and environmental protection (protection of forests, reduction of environmental damage from diesel) and opportunities and prospects for young people through supporting local businesses. It is important that development cooperation is understood not as a one-sided “help”, but much more as a cooperation in which energy policy forms a central pillar.”

The Global Renewables Congress, with its partners is committed to take this task forward and support parliamentarians in fostering this cooperation.