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Global efforts to reduce energy demand

By: Wendel Trio

At the last G20 Leaders’ Summit, which took place on 9–10 September 2023 in New Delhi, India, the leaders of the world’s biggest economies agreed to pursue tripling renewable energy capacity globally. And while recognising the important role of energy efficiency, no agreement was reached on a similar target to reduce energy demand as the leaders only took note of the Voluntary Action Plan on Doubling the rate of Energy Efficiency Improvement by 2030, developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Action Plan repeats what is already mentioned in the Versailles Statement: The Crucial Decade for Energy Efficiency, issued in June 2023, which is supported by the European Union, the African Union and over 50 countries, including two-thirds of the G20 membership (all except China, India, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

The doubling of energy efficiency target is actually inspired by the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE) scenario, which explicitly looks at both the technological improvements and sufficiency measures needed to achieve the objective of reducing total final energy consumption to 337 exajoules by 2050. This is quite ambitious and would mean a reduction of energy consumption by about a quarter of projected energy demand by mid-century. In the Versailles Statement the sufficiency concept is firmly recognised: “Ambitious actions should be taken by every country across all sectors, (…) to lead to an acceleration in overall global energy efficiency progress and to reduce energy demand, where possible. Governments should consider the implementation of effective policy packages that may include measures related to behaviour change, sufficiency measures, and technological improvements such as digitalisation and decarbonised heating.”

Nevertheless, much more is possible, and scientists have developed alternative scenarios and pathways, such as the Low Energy Demand (LED) scenario and the On Earth Climate Model that foresee total final energy consumption to be reduced to between 245 and 280 EJ by 2050.

It will obviously be crucial that action to limit and reduce energy demand should not infringe on people’s rights to access affordable, reliable and modern energy services as provided in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Hence the importance of ensuring an equitable energy demand reduction approach. Such an approach should be based on capping the energy use of the top global consumers. As a recent European study indicated, capping the energy use of the top 10 or 20 percent of consumers could result in savings that are more than 10 times the increase needed to provide all Europeans with basic access to energy services.

In support for a strong call for more ambition on energy efficiency and energy sufficiency targets and policies, CAN International agreed on a new position calling for substantial additional action to tackle energy consumption:

  • Support a substantial improvement in energy savings and energy conservation by both decreasing energy intensity and reducing wasteful energy demand, in an equitable way, including strong and binding energy efficiency legislation in all countries in next years whilst ensuring safe, clean, reliable and affordable access to energy services for all and tackling energy overconsumption by the rich, with the aim of reducing total final energy demand by at least a quarter by 2050 compared to today.

Wendel Trio

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