04/22/16 : Karen Hughes

Accelerating on the Road from Paris: Let’s Double Global Energy Productivity

This Earth Day, almost 170 countries will convene in New York City to sign the COP21 Paris agreement to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius this century. The most important actions will be taking place at home, under the leadership of national, state and municipal governments. The Global Alliance for Energy Productivity urges these policymakers to make doubling energy productivity a pillar of their emission-reductions strategy. Together, we can double global energy productivity and help accelerate ambition on the road from Paris.  

There is no doubt that the signing ceremony on April 22 will be historic, but this show of international support is only the beginning. Amid the commotion of high-level talks, it can be easy to forget the real drivers of meaningful investments in energy productivity outcomes: national and subnational governments. These leaders are responsible for making the vision of Paris a reality and will ultimately determine the success or failure of the agreement.

Increasing our energy productivity – the amount of economic output possible at a given level of energy consumption – will play a vital role in meeting the Paris agreement targets. Whether it is the number of miles traveled per gallon of gasoline on a family road trip, or the amount of GDP produced for every kilowatt hour consumed in a national economy, energy productivity helps us understand how well we are using the energy we consume.

In 2013, the U.S. government adopted the goal of doubling national energy productivity. Since then, a raft of new initiatives has been undertaken at the national and state level to support positive energy productive outcomes – boosting research and development, educating consumers, increasing private investment and raising energy performance standards. At the same time, the U.S. economy has continued to grow, demonstrating that efficient energy use does not have to come at the expense of growth.

For many signatories of the Paris Agreement, economic prosperity is a matter of national security. Prioritizing energy productivity means that economic prosperity does not have to be sidelined in exchange for achieving the GHG emissions reductions needed to meet the Paris targets. In fact, investments in energy-efficient technologies and practices can help households save money, create jobs and boost GDP growth, all while advancing toward international emissions goals. At a global level, this adds up: A recent study by Fraunhofer ISI estimates that, by focusing on energy productivity, the world could reduce the cost of meeting the 2 degree Celsius target by up to $2.8 trillion.

The key is to make sure that companies and consumers get the maximum economic value out of every gigajoule of energy consumed, and in doing so countries around the world will get closer to their climate goals. There is no doubt: deploying energy-efficient technologies and practices is the fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way to meet emissions-reduction targets.

This Earth Day will mark a significant global milestone, but it is only the beginning. As countries around the world assess a range of clean energy solutions, it is critical that energy productivity be a core global priority.

To help us support healthy economies worldwide, take a minute to endorse the goal of doubling energy productivity. Have questions? To contact the Secretariat of the Global Alliance for Energy Productivity, email Karen Hughes at KHughes@ase.org