Rhein on Energy and Climate

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is most likely to end in a failure, due to the complexity of the proposed solutions and the diversity of positions of the key actors.

But this must not be the end of the story. Humanity has no option but to continue acting against climate change if it wants to avoid disaster.

In 2010, the big emitter countries will therefore have to grabble for alternative solutions. These should be mainly unilateral commitments for action to fight deforestation, promote solar, wind and nuclear power plants, phase out fossil electricity, raise fuel efficiency standards of automobiles, buildings and household utilities, ban the use of incandescent lamps, refurbish badly insulated buildings, abolish subsidies on fossil fuels and tax C02 emissions.

Such solutions differ radically from the Copenhagen approach.

  • They put the emphasis on concrete action rather than on vague and distant targets, which are impossible to monitor.
  • They have the backing of national governments and therefore a high probability of implementation.
  • They put the big emitter countries on the forefront of international action.
  • For this to function there is need for an appropriate system of mandatory reporting and peer review. To that end, the international community will need an efficient international watchdog.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) would be the most appropriate institution to fulfil this role, provided its present member countries agree to widen its membership and broaden its mandate.

Huge emitter countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia should be invited to join as a top priority. To be effective the IEA will need substantially bigger financial means for studies and research.

The enlarged IEA has the optimal size for informal exchanges of views on matters like the most effective instruments of energy and climate policies or the best ways of overcoming structural obstacles on the way to clean energy.

The UN has demonstrated it is not yet able to achieve global climate governance. The OECD countries, represented in the IEA, are not able on their own to solve the global climate issue. They need to step up their cooperation with future energy giants like China, India or Russia. This should take place in an effective multilateral framework. Rather than setting up another new machinery – like IRENA – the parties should make use of a proven one. The IEA seems the best available, with the longest experience in international energy issues.

Brussels, 23.09 09 Eberhard Rhein

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