event 09 Mar 2017

Policy Brief // The Climate-Energy Nexus and the G20: Compatible or mutually exclusive?

By Lina Li, Julia Melnikova and Dennis Tänzler from adelphi. The article outlines the current and the future role of the climate-energy nexus in the G20.



Commitment to global climate action is stronger than ever before, with the Paris Agreement entering into force on 4 November and fresh advances at COP 22 in Morocco. Compared with other recent international agreements, the Paris Agreement was ratified in record time, demonstrating its major importance on the international agenda. The pledge to achieve global decarbonisation could prove to be a game changer in both the climate and energy policy arenas. Yet, climate protection still receives little attention within some major international fora dealing with a broad range of key global issues. The G20 is one crucial example. In 2016 there have been some promising developments under the Chinese presidency on addressing the climate and energy nexus. Germany’s upcoming G20 presidency provides a chance to translate the ambition of the Paris Agreement into a roadmap for the phase-out of fossil fuels over the coming decades.


Initially, G20 summits dealt with issues far removed from ecological concerns, focusing primarily on the global financial system and how to manage the various crises emerging out of the 2007/2008 financial crash. However, particularly since 2010, the forum has shifted from ‘crisis management mode’ to more conventional cooperation, and its agenda has accordingly broadened to include issues such as energy. Nevertheless, although the energy sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, climate issues have played little part in the G20 discussions. By anchoring an objective to keep global temperature rise to “wellbelow-2°C” above pre-industrial levels and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5°C, and translating the objective to the need to reach global emissions to peak as soon as possible, the Paris Agreement dramatically changed global attitudes towards climate change and gave a significant boost to international ambitions to decarbonise energy supplies in the medium and long-term. The strong interconnection between climate and energy issues has been acknowledged by key international organisations working on global energy governance and cooperation. As a new IEA report highlights, “[t]he need for deeper emissions reductions corresponding to the increased ambition of the ‘well-below-2°C’ goal of the Paris Agreement points to the need for extensive mitigation action in the power sector”. According to analysis conducted by IRENA, a doubling of the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030, combined with a doubling of annual energy efficiency improvements, would set the world on a path compatible with limiting global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the 21st century. Climate and energy are highly interdependent. While the energy sector, as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, should be at the heart of global climate action, ambitious climate goals can catalyse energy transition and enhance energy security. Both scientists and politicians are increasingly highlighting the importance of the nexus between these closely connected policy areas, and advocating “an approach that integrates management and governance across sectors and scales”. The G20 states could be decisive in fostering the climate-energy nexus. Representing 75% of global energy demand, 80% of energy-related CO2 emissions and 80% of the total global primary energy supply10 , they play a key role in shaping both the global energy and climate agendas. They are also leaders in technology development and innovation, and jointly account for three quarters of the total global deployment potential of renewables up to 2030. What is the current and what will be the future role of the climate energy nexus in the G20? Did the adoption and entry into force of the Paris Agreement influence the agenda of the G20fora or vice versa? To what extent are the G20 members already addressing the climateenergy nexus as part of their overall policy portfolio? Will there be a place for the climate-energy nexus in future, given the recent political shifts in the G20 such as Brexit or the result of the US presidential election? These are the main questions this paper deals with. To provide answers to these questions, the paper critically assesses the status of approaches to address the climate-energy nexus in the G20 countries, the outcomes of China’s G20 presidency with regard to climate and energy issues, as well as their interconnection, and provides recommendations for the climate and energy agenda of the German G20 presidency in 2017.


adelphi website


December 2016


adelphi is a leading independent think tank and public policy consultancy on climate, environment and development. Our mission is to improve global governance through research, dialogue and consultation. We offer demand-driven, tailor-made services for sustainable development, helping governments, international organizations, businesses and nonprofits design strategies for addressing global challenges.

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