All Eyes on China at Clean Energy Ministerial

All eyes turned to China last week, as energy ministers from 24 countries convened in Beijing for the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial, with the primary goal of launching a new era of ‘shared global leadership’ for the CEM.

The Beijing meeting marked this new phase of activity, characterised by increasingly shared global leadership in clean energy. New alliances were formed to accelerate clean energy action, including a partnership between the Chinese and Californian governments, as well as a China State Grid and IRENA collaboration.

There was plenty of ‘walking the talk,’ as well. We heard encouraging progress on energy efficiency, a key SDG7 goal. CEM’s Advanced Cooling Challenge announced 26 commitments and $1.4 billion of investment in more efficient air conditioners (ACs). Electricity demand for ACs is huge, and if the average efficiency of units sold in 2030 could be improved by 30 percent, carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 25 billion tons. China also touted its world-leading energy efficiency efforts, which call for 50 percent of all new buildings constructed by 2020 to be certified green buildings.

On the renewable energy front, new REN21 data was announced showing a record 161 gigawatts of renewable energy installed globally in 2016. On the corporate side, Apple announced the biggest clean energy commitment yet from one its suppliers. Jabil Circuit, a Florida-based company which has a major presence in China, pledged to convert its manufacturing facilities to 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2018.

Governments from across the world also continued to ‘walk the talk’ and reaffirmed their energy and climate commitments. The Under2 Coalition announced five new endorsers and signatories – Denmark, the State of Chhattisgarh (India) Region of Brittany (France) and South African Provinces KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape – at the Under2 Clean Energy Forum side event.

These are encouraging signs, to be sure, but as SEforALL CEO Rachel Kyte tweeted from China, “The evidence here at #CEM8 points to doubling down on energy efficiency and spread of RE. Need speed and scale.”  

Lack of investment is another red flag. A new UNCTAD 2017 World Investment Report shows a 2 percent drop in global flows of foreign direct investment in 2016, and an even bigger drop, 14 percent, in flows to Least Developed Countries (LDCs).