Efficiency Report Offers New Solutions to Energy Challenges

By Richard Moss, Senior Director, Climate Change, United Nations Foundation

Energy efficiency is the single most promising strategy for getting the global community on track to tackle the climate change crisis. Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, and most readily available energy resource. Reducing the amount of energy used to produce goods and services not only addresses climate change, it also reduces dependence on oil supplies from unstable regions such as the Middle East, and saves money too. Aggressively exploiting global energy efficiency resources will allow for sustainable sustainable growth that avoids further damage to the climate system.

By working together, the countries of the G8 and the +5 can achieve ambitious 2.5 percent annual improvements in efficiency that meet much of their energy demands in the cleanest and cheapest way possible. If extended to other major emitters–such as the “major emitters” (G8 and major emerging economies) invited to President Bush’s meeting in Washington from September 27-28–improving energy efficiency at this global average rate would also keep atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide below 550 parts per million. This is the finding of “Realizing the Potential of Energy Efficiency: Targets, Policies, and Measures for G8 Countries,” a report released by the United Nations Foundation that represents the views of a distinguished group of over 20 energy efficiency experts from around the world and across many economic sectors known as the Expert Group.

The Expert Group calls for a “pledge and review” framework to drive energy efficiency improvements. First, the G8+5 countries should commit to a collective goal to double energy efficiency improvements to 2.5 percent per year. Second, participating countries should formulate individualized national strategies. Each nation will enact cost effective policies from a menu of proven options, recognizing that some countries have more improvement opportunities than others. International coordination between the G8 countries and the major developing nations of the +5 is critical. An annual high-level “summit” consisting of the G8+5 countries will be convened to maintain momentum, with supporting work groups to facilitate technical cooperation amongst states. Finally, the Expert Group suggests a menu of proven policy options for national policymakers to improve energy efficiency in the transportation, buildings, appliance, and industrial sectors as well as options that cut across the economy and provide guidance for coordinating efforts between the G8 and the +5.

The response to the report has been very positive thus far. The Japanese government, which will preside over the G8 this year, has expressed interest in using the report to guide and inform its efforts to push efficiency to the top of the G8 agenda.

The Expert Group and the United Nations Foundation are now planning how to best facilitate the implementation of the recommendations in the report. There is a great deal of value in promoting greater international coordination of existing and future efficiency efforts. To that end, a “progress report” will be created for major nations and countries to provide a set of comparable, internationally accepted performance metrics and to identify ways existing initiatives can be better integrated.

The full report can be viewed at www.unfoundation.org/energyefficiency.