Academic journal article Global Governance

Global Energy Governance in the G-20: States, Coalitions, and Crises

Academic journal article Global Governance

Global Energy Governance in the G-20: States, Coalitions, and Crises

Article excerpt

There is an emerging consensus among global governance scholars that there is a global energy governance gap. The rapid transformation of global energy markets with a new cast of producers and consumers, which now accounts for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, has left the existing institutional architecture behind. While there has been some discussion in the emerging literature on the potential role of the Group of 20, there is almost no analysis of what conditions need to be met for the G-20 to act in a significant fashion. This article takes up this task. Drawing on recent scholarship in global governance, environmental politics, and international negotiations, as well as the observations of the author who is a past delegate to G-20 negotiations, it considers the role of the G-20 in global energy governance and identifies the principal conditions that will need to be met if the G-20 is to drive more than piecemeal change. Keywords: global governance, energy, G-20, climate change.


At the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Brisbane in November 2014, leaders agreed to reform the global energy governance architecture. This was the first time that G-20 leaders had actively considered whether the existing international energy architecture, largely created in response to the oil shocks of the 1970s and dominated by the International Energy Agency (IEA), is sufficient to meet the rapidly changing demands of the global energy sector, a sector which now accounts for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. (1)

The global energy sector is experiencing a transformation. Nations that were major energy importers only a few years ago are becoming exporters, exporters are becoming large consumers, and previously small consumers are now the prime source of global demand for oil and gas. China is now the world's largest energy consumer and is set to become the largest oil importing country. India is projected to become the largest importer of coal within a decade. And the United States, once the largest energy consumer and dependent on Middle Eastern oil, could be on track for energy self-sufficiency with the revolution in unconventional oil and gas supplies. (2) In other words, the global energy sector is no longer dominated by a small band of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in Europe and North America. Rather, it is quickly being reconfigured by the growing demand for energy from non-OECD countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East.

However, these changes are also taking place in a carbon-constrained world. "As the source of two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, the energy sector will be pivotal in determining whether or not climate change goals are achieved." (3) Put simply, the climate problem is an energy problem. Yet energy emissions continue to rise, and the likelihood of reducing global temperatures to 2[degrees]C, the so-called guardrail for preventing dangerous climate change, appears to be the hope of a previous decade, not this one. If the world does not take action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, it is projected that, by the end of the century, average global temperatures will rise by 5[degrees]C above preindustrial levels. (4)

The international energy architecture has not kept pace with these rapid transformations, and it is no surprise that there is an emerging consensus among global governance scholars that a "global energy governance gap" exists. As Ann Florini points out, "The current system of global energy governance is a mess, with many actors, many priorities, little coherence, and limited effectiveness." (5) Neil Hirst and Antony Froggatt argue that "all this points to the need for a genuinely global body for cooperation on energy policy including all major energy consuming countries and working with energy producers in areas where they have interests in common." (6) They claim that such a body could be created from the reform of existing institutions, "or it could be built from scratch. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.