Energy matters – to all of us – whether we are living in an industrialised country or a developing nation. We all depend on clean, reliable and affordable energy.
Germany with its large manufacturing sector and very limited natural resources depends heavily on the import of raw materials. On the positive side, Germany phased out black coal in 2018, is on track to phase out brown coal (lignite) by 2038 and has achieved a 46% proportion of renewable energy by now. New Zealand, not least thanks to its geographical location alongside the Ring of Fire, already sources an even larger proportion of its energy demand from renewables. Aotearoa (Maori for “land of the long white cloud”) is, however, yet to cut down from high per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Australia, despite its abundance of renewable energy sources, is struggling to ensure reliable energy. The country “down under”, too, ranks high in terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Experts argue that if Australia were to meet the emissions reduction targets pledged under the Paris Agreement, it would be thanks to the use of carry-over credits from the preceding Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, Australia arguably has the potential to become a renewable energy superpower, and to export any excess in the form of hydrogen, tipped to become the hero of energy transition. The main issue for the Pacific Region is a different (though related) one. The Boe Declaration on Regional Security – issued by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders in 2018 – reaffirms that climate change remains the single greatest security threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the Pacific peoples. According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, “[t]he world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope”. Climate change is also argued to have contributed to Australia’s recent bushfire crisis. In the words of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel: “The link between climate change, a rising number of forest fire danger days and our season of bushfires is clear, and has resulted in a steep collective cost that can be measured in billions of dollars in economic damage – which pales to insignificance when compared to the greater costs behind the statistics. The lost lives and livelihoods. The lost businesses and homes. The lost flora and fauna.”
Clean, reliable and affordable energy and climate change are among the biggest challenges Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the Pacific Island states are facing. In fact, they are global issues that transcend national borders. Yet they are primarily dealt with at national level. In an endeavour to overcome borders and distances, to promote synergies and to foster collaboration between like-minded countries, KAS Australia promotes the free exchange of policy strategies and innovative ideas. The measures we take include an annual energy policy dialogue which provides German lawmakers and experts with a forum to meet their Australian and New Zealand counterparts as well as other stakeholders.
This edition of the Periscope is published following the 2nd KAS-EUCERS Energy Policy Dialogue “Energy Strategies: Germany, New Zealand & Australia – A Comparative Perspective”. While the publication draws on the topics of the Dialogue (renewable energy & energy efficiency; balancing energy security, affordability & environmental sustainability; current energy policy challenges), it is not restricted to them, and includes the Pacific viewpoint as well.
Energy and climate matters affect the private, public and economic sectors alike. They also have a wider impact on foreign and security policy, and give rise to socio-cultural issues. Accordingly, they must be mastered by political decision makers and business representatives as well as society as a whole. This edition seeks to make the findings of the Dialogue and related issues available to a wider audience, so that they may be used to the greatest possible extent in the public debate, policy making process and implementation of possible solutions.
Finally, I would like to say a few words in regards to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which may be unrelated to energy and climate policy matters, but shows that global solidarity and cooperation is crucial to tackling global issues. My thoughts and sympathies are with all those affected by the pandemic, and I wish all of us the strength we need to make it through these difficult times.
Dr Beatrice Gorawantschy
Director – KAS Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
Canberra, April 2020