World Energy Chiefs See More Natural Gas 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 nations that “opt to enhance their renewable energy strategies” should bolster 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.

Among the officials attending the two-day meeting, held in snow-swept Bariloche, Argentina, was U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

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

Perry Seeks Consensus

The final agreement came after Perry, a former governor of Texas, made a strong appeal for consensus and warned representatives that resistance from a handful of nations was holding up what was a largely complete communique, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

A major sticking point was how to refer to the Paris climate pact, said the people, who asked not to be named to discuss private negotiations. European countries at least twice insisted on language to "reaffirm their unwavering determination to implement and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement."

The U.S. pushed back, and, ultimately, the group accepted language offered by the Americans, the people said.

While the final statement references the accord, it does so 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 with the Group of Seven meeting in Canada last weekend, which ended in disarray and trade threats, with President Donald Trump tweeting he was pulling U.S. support from a joint statement.

The final deal also had a different outcome than last July’s G20 energy summit, when the joint 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.

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