World Energy Chiefs See Natural Gas Expansion Aiding Green Push

(Bloomberg) -- World energy ministers representing about two thirds of the global population tussled over how the world can achieve a cleaner energy future. The compromise answer: Natural gas, at least for now.

A consensus statement from G20 energy ministers meeting in Argentina cited the potential of natural gas “to expand significantly over the coming decades.” Meanwhile, the group said that nations that “opt to enhance their renewable energy strategies” should boost investment and financing within that arena.

“Gas will play a vital role in every transition,” as the world strives to meet targets for emissions cuts laid out in the 2016 Paris Agreement, Thorsten Herdan, Germany’s Director General of Energy Policy, said in a panel as the meeting ended on Friday. A next step: renewable gases like hydrogen, he said.

The two-day meeting, held in snow-swept Bariloche, Argentina, was attended by key energy officials from a wide range of countries, including U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

The language in the consensus statement, which included mention of the Paris agreement, was the subject of several rounds of negotiations, with European Union nations and the U.S. trading at least four major proposals and counterproposals. Herdan conceded the wording was fiercely debated.

U.S. Concession

The result represented a concession for the U.S. by acknowledging the importance of transitions to cleaner energy sources "to achieve emissions reductions, and for those countries that are determined to implement the Paris agreement."

The wording “is not as clear as everyone would liked to have it,” Herdan said. “But at the end of the day that was the compromise.”

The result contrasted the outcome from last July’s G20 energy summit, when the final statement emphasized the U.S. decision to leave the global carbon-cutting pact and highlighted the other nations’ commitment to it.

"The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris agreement is irreversible," the communique said last July. The U.S. also fought successfully last year for language emphasizing its commitment to "work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently."

At at time when the U.S. is seeking to revive its coal industry, Herdan argued the world should be moving away from the fossil fuel. But he said the G20 wasn’t a club for telling others what to do.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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