On February 28-29, GMF Berlin, in partnership with the Ecologic Institute for International & European Environmental Policy, hosted the second leg of a three part strategy seminar entitled "What is the price of energy transformation?" at the Danish Embassy in Berlin. Participants were drawn from both sides of the Atlantic and included experts from the NGO community, government officials, and representatives from the energy sector. The discussion focused on the nexus of energy, climate change, and security issues, with a particular emphasis on resources and climate change.
Karsten Voigt, the German government's transatlantic coordinator, opened the second workshop with a speech on German climate and energy policy. The first day's discussion concluded with a dinner reception at the residence of the Danish Ambassador, who had invited a number of senior German policymakers to join the conference guests. Mikael Skou Andersen of the Danish National Environmental Research Institute was the dinner keynote speaker.
The next morning, Hans Jorgen Koch, deputy state secretary for the Ministry of Climate gave a speech on the EU Commission's recent climate and energy package, as well as on Danish climate policy.
The seminar's six sessions examined different aspects of energy security and climate change issues from a resources standpoint. The first day of sessions focused on current worldwide energy use, looking specifically at the types of energy resources that are being utilized in various regions. Participants debated how best to curb the use of environmentally harmful fossil fuels through the use of nuclear and renewable energies. In addition, participants examined the security implications of a shift in the methods of energy production under a potential post-Kyoto treaty. The second day of the seminar focused on issues of energy efficiency and how best to transform the way in which energy is produced and consumed worldwide. Important conclusions and dissenting opinions on the five topics are as follows:
- Fossil Fuels
The first session opened by acknowledging that fossil fuels will continue to be a significant source of energy under a post-Kyoto climate agreement. Participants discussed the "least bad pathway" to deal with their damaging environmental impact by debating the pros and cons of implementing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, green technology transfer, plus shares of CO2 emissions from Annex 1 to developing countries, or a combination of both methods. The majority of participants agreed that CCS has a high energy and economic cost, is not intended to be applied on a large scale, and advised policy makers to keep an eye open for subsidy gains.
- Renewable Energies
The discussion on renewable energy proved to be somewhat contentious, as participants debated which renewable resources should be utilized and to what extent. Participants discussed the effectiveness of biofuels and whether or not the required amounts of deforestation in rainforest dense countries like Brazil off set the benefits of using ethanol. However, everyone acknowledged that it is unrealistic to expect renewable energy to completely solve the problem of climate change, as reliance on fossils fuels is not expected to stop in the near future. In addition, there was a consensus on a need for greater transatlantic cooperation between the U.S. and the EU on the issue of renewable energy if they are to play a leading role in helping developing nations curb GHG emissions without negative consequences for their economic growth.
- Nuclear Energy
The topic of nuclear energy was discussed primarily from a security standpoint. While a minority of the participants wanted to keep nuclear energy on the menu, a majority expressed concern over the use of nuclear energy for several reasons. Nuclear material can be easily obtained and abused by terrorist organizations. The use of nuclear energy is unpopular in both the EU and U.S. and poses a significant risk of creating health problems. In addition, the nuclear industry is suffering from an inability to maintain a long-term workforce or maintain competency levels among staff in existing facilities. Currently, nuclear energy is responsible for only a small portion of our energy consumption, 18 percent in France and less than seven percent in the U.S. and Germany. Most participants agreed that nuclear energy will play a declining role in the near future despite the fact that France and Japan will continue to push for its use.
- Energy Efficiency
The discussion of energy efficiency focused on how both developed and developing countries can considerably reduce GHG emissions to prevent a global temperature rise of two degrees Celsius by 2050. Participants agreed that different countries and regions have energy needs that differ significantly from one another and energy efficiency policies need to have a flexible framework in order to take this fact into account. In addition, policy makers, the energy sector, and the public need to understand the long term economic benefits of renewable energy and improved energy efficiency, especially regarding electricity.
- Transforming Energy Use
The final session examined the changes that need to be made in all components of the world's industrial societies in order to shift our primary energy supply to sustainable and secure sources. Everyone acknowledged U.S. and a majority of developing countries are unwilling to commit to binding carbon emissions reduction targets in the immediate future. The participants expressed concern over the ability of policy makers to implement and diffuse effective policies that will actually have an impact on improving energy efficiency and stressed the need for awareness campaigns and public education in order to change current energy consumption behavior patterns.
The conference concluded with a working draft paper that outlined consensus and points of disagreement among the participants on the energy resource issues discussed above. The debate will continue at the third and final leg of the workshop in Brussels at the end of April, focusing on the security aspects of climate change and energy. The same core group of participants plus a greater number of American experts is expected at the Brussels meeting. The third workshop will end with document agreed upon by the participants that will include assessments and recommendations for policymakers and experts.