"Delivering Global Energy Security Requires a Global 'Energiewende'"
"The 'Energiewende' is crucial to international security," Kumi Naidoo, the International Executive Director of Greenpeace International, writes in an op-ed on the occasion of the Energy Security Summit 2015. "If you search for 'security policy' in Google Images, the images you get are of men in uniforms, combat aircraft, fences and endless pipelines. What you don't find are wind turbines or photovoltaic systems, insulation materials or double glazed windows. But these are the 'weapons' we must deploy if we want to create a safer world order."
Whether Germany is serious about the "Energiewende"- an energy transition away from nuclear power and fossil fuels - is not just a question of national energy policy. The Energiewende is crucial to international security. That's why the world looks to Germany. And expects German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be bold. Germany is currently discussing a levy on old and polluting coal fired power plants. This coal levy is vital; it may herald the beginning of the end of lignite in Germany. Will Chancellor Merkel, following her brave decision to phase-out nuclear power, show courage once more and start a just transition away from coal? Will Germany be the first major industrialized country in the world that ends its dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels?
Far too often "energy security" is seen purely about securing access to energy resources. But countries trying to selfishly secure their national energy access leads to global insecurity. Conflicts are always complex. But looking at current conflicts from Iraq, Ukraine, Sudan, the South China Sea to Nigeria it is obvious that the access, the transport and thus the dependence on fossil fuels do play a role.
"Resource wars" are not new. But today we can overcome them. Because the good news is: The alternatives to fossil fuels are not only available - they are economically competitive and globally making a breakthrough. I hear about Germany regularly because it breaks one wind and solar-record after another. Already, 27 percent of Germany's electricity comes from renewable sources. And last year China alone invested $ 83 billion in renewable energy. Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) - certainly a conservative body - predicts that solar energy will become the dominant global source of electricity in a few short years.
This renewables boom is good news also for security. Because fossil fuels do not only directly contribute to international conflicts, they also act in a destabilizing manner indirectly. The burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of climate change. And climate change is - as even the Pentagon confirms - a significant "threat multiplier". Climate change exacerbates poverty, political instability and social tensions.
Despite the Pentagon warnings, these realities are all too often ignored in security circles. If you search for "security policy" in Google Images, the images you get are of men in uniforms, combat aircraft, fences and endless pipelines. What you don't find are wind turbines or photovoltaic systems, insulation materials or double glazed windows. But these are the "weapons" we must deploy if we want to create a safer world order.
We must grasp the opportunity to deliver true "energy security" through countries co-operating on the development and dissemination of renewable energy. That's why I am speaking at the "Energy Security Summit" with security experts and call on them to pursue a global Energiewende as a decisive security policy. The German government must intensify the global conversation Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier started in March when he invited experts from around the world to an Energiewende conference in Berlin. The globalization of the energy transition away from nuclear powers and fossil fuels is perhaps the most important security policy impulse Germany can give today!
That's why I am also asking Chancellor Merkel to call for a global Energiewende at the G7 summit she will be hosting in June. The mandate of this undemocratic club is rightly in question. But Chancellor Merkel knows that such summits can send global signals. That is why she battled with then US President Bush in Heiligendamm in 2007 and got the G7 then to commit to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Her personal commitment in those discussions impressed me. But too little has happened in the last 8 years to prevent dangerous climate change. The next step is now overdue. That's why I am convinced that time is ripe for Chancellor Merkel to this time propose a vision of a world run 100% on renewable energy to her G7 partners. In order to be credible as a host of the G7, Angela Merkel must also ensure that the proposed coal levy gets adopted. The world looks to Germany. Mrs Merkel, you have a chance to make the right choice for energy, foreign and security policy.
Kumi Naidoo is the International Executive Director of Greenpeace International. A German version of this piece appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 7 May 2015.