What Role Can the G20 Play in Global Energy Governance? Implications for China's Presidency

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The prevailing architecture of global energy governance is fragmented, uncoordinated and failing to yield the required outcomes. This article examines the argument that the Group of 20 (G20) can provide a leadership role to improve the quality of global energy governance. Energy has characteristics of a global public good and the energy system resembles a complex adaptive system. These observations imply that the global governance of energy should be polycentric and this, in turn, entails a high level of coordination and trust between governing actors. Clubs and networks are institutions that can usefully enhance coordination and trust. In this respect, the G20 can be seen as a club at the hub of networks that can play a key role in improving the global governance of energy and China's presidency of the G20 in 2016 provides a unique opportunity for the G20 to prove its worth.

Policy Implications

  • The effective governance of energy at a global scale requires a step change in the level of collective action between nations, but it is unrealistic to create a new institution to undertake this task. The institutions of global energy governance have a strong polycentric character that requires greater trust and coordination in order to be more effective.
  • As a club at the apex of multiple networks, the G20 is well placed to shoulder leadership, trust-building and coordinating roles in global energy governance, not least because its membership accounts for 75 per cent of global commercial energy consumption and 80 per cent of CO2 emissions from energy use.
  • Key priorities for the G20 include improving the transparency of information relating to energy and enhancing coordination between existing international organisations in the field of energy.
  • China is the world's largest consumer of energy and is heavily dependent on international markets for energy commodities, investment and equipment. It is therefore well-placed and has the incentive to use its presidency of the G20 to push forward a global energy agenda.
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