Global Energy Governance - Explaining a Vaccuum and Fledling Strategies to Fill It

Finnish Academy research fellow Sylvia Karlsson,  Finland Futures Research Centre, Turku School of Economics.

The way that humanity produces and consumes energy accounts for more than half of the emissions of greenhouse gases. All ambitious mitigation strategies must therefore drastically transform the energy sector. Indirectly the Kyoto and post-Kyoto reduction commitments will lead to changed energy policies in participating countries, particularly Annex 1 countries. The degree to which these treaties will also influence the energy choices of developing countries will depend on several factors including the provisions for technology transfer and financial resources for domestic action, the volume of energy projects in flexible mechanisms and how the investment policies of International Financial Institutions change. The treaties do not, however, change the historic links between energy, economic development and national security which have made governments adamant to keep the power to decide over their own energy future and very reluctant to create international institutions   norms or organizations - particularly within the United Nations, that address energy explicitly. The result has been a virtual normative and institutional vacuum on energy in the UN System
The analytical and political challenge in the coming years is to identify the type of international energy institutions that are needed to support the global climate regime. The lecture aims to explain the ’taboo’ for the institutionalisation of global collaboration on energy and explore how this taboo is becoming increasingly perceived as an obstacle for the international community to support the transition to a low-carbon economy and ensuring affordable modern energy for the 1.6 billion people currently lacking it. It will include a brief historical overview of the relationship between energy and global governance in general and the UN System in particular, outlining early ad hoc efforts of norm development and interagency coordination in the UN System and give an analysis of recent efforts to strengthen the global institutionalisation of energy particularly in the Commission on Sustainable Development and the obstacles encountered on the way. The concluding discussion situates these obstacles in a theoretical context of global public goods and multi-level governance and a political context where some countries are pushing for the establishment of international agencies on renewable energy and energy efficiency respectively outside the UN System.
The conclusions are that the climate regime needs support from stronger global energy governance and that the issue of creating international institutions that address energy ’heads on’ and should be more openly discussed in a broad multilateral framework. This discussion has to include the advantages and disadvantages in relation to criteria of effectiveness and legitimacy for creating institutions within or outside the UN System and what type of institutions are necessary. Theories on the provision of global public goods tells us that old taboos around international norms and institutionalized collaboration around energy has to give way for new necessities to favour energy sources, production and consumption systems that can effectively mitigate climate change.