An Ignored Alternative for Australian International Coverage

Editor’s Notice: A model of this text was initially printed by The Interpreter, which is printed by the Lowy Institute, an unbiased, nonpartisan suppose tank primarily based in Sydney. Conflict on the Rocks is proud to be publishing choose articles from The Interpreter.

Successive federal governments have declared Australia to be an “vitality superpower.” The 2017 International Coverage White Paper is the latest instance, highlighting the dimensions of Australia’s exports of coal and liquefied pure gasoline. But Australian international coverage has usually missed vitality diplomacy. In america, phrases resembling “vitality diplomacy” are actually a preferred a part of the coverage lexicon, however in Australia little consideration has been given to the idea, together with the way in which through which vitality diplomacy would possibly work together with broader international coverage aims.

In a latest article within the Australian Journal of Worldwide Affairs, I argue that given the transformations happening in world vitality markets, the time is ripe to rethink Australian vitality diplomacy. Specifically, to broaden past a historic concentrate on selling fossil fuels and securing export markets to driving efforts that enhance world vitality governance through the Group of Twenty (G20), which agreed to reform the worldwide system in 2014.

It’s because the worldwide vitality system is failing to maintain up with dramatic adjustments within the patterns of worldwide vitality manufacturing and consumption. Issues have been mounting concerning the capability of the system to make sure vitality safety, facilitate entry to vitality, and obtain the clear vitality transition required to avert the worst impacts of local weather change. Certainly, most of the worldwide vitality organizations which have been established in many years previous are not geared up to satisfy these challenges, together with the Worldwide Power Company (IEA).

What Ought to Australian Power Diplomacy Focus On?

Australia vitality diplomacy ought to concentrate on three areas that may enhance world vitality governance, that are additionally constant the with the 2014 G20 settlement.

First, Australia ought to use the G20 to strengthen current multilateral establishments. One of many key ideas agreed to by the G20 in 2014 was to make sure that “Worldwide vitality establishments [are] extra consultant and inclusive of rising and creating economies.” To a big extent, this referred to reforming the IEA, which is taken into account by many countries to be outdated provided that it doesn’t embody a few of the largest vitality customers amongst its members, resembling China and India.

Second, Australia ought to use the G20 to enhance coordination between the varied worldwide organizations that usually have conflicting targets with a view to deliver higher coherence to the worldwide vitality structure. Whereas some makes an attempt have been made to enhance coordination between organizations, resembling OPEC which represents oil producers and the IEA which represents oil customers, rather more must be carried out if the worldwide vitality system goes to realize governance aims round vitality safety, vitality entry, or local weather change.

Third, Australian vitality diplomacy ought to promote collaboration between G20 member states’ nationwide vitality insurance policies. The G20 has already proven the potential of collaboration in different domains resembling finance. Following the worldwide monetary disaster in 2008, G20 leaders agreed to coordinate their fiscal and financial insurance policies thereby ameliorating the worst results of the disaster.

Related steps might be taken within the area of vitality. As an illustration, in 2009, G20 leaders introduced that they’d “rationalize and part out, over the medium time period, inefficient fossil gas subsidies.” But regardless of their vital contribution to greenhouse gasoline emissions, G20 nations have to date didn’t part out such subsidies.

Nonetheless, if Australian vitality diplomacy is to successfully pursue a governance agenda then it should again up its rhetoric with actions.  In different phrases, Australia should show that it’s a constructive worldwide associate within the area of vitality. Lately, it’s not clear that it has been. For instance, Australia has didn’t comply with america and China, amongst others, and take part in a peer overview of its fossil gas subsidies. It’s also the one member of the IEA failing to satisfy its worldwide obligation to take care of adequate oil shares within the occasion of a disruption in world oil markets – and naturally there may be the continuing turmoil in local weather coverage. Such points will must be rectified domestically if Australia is to achieve success internationally.

How Can Australian Power Diplomacy Assist Broader International Coverage Targets?

Broadening Australian vitality diplomacy will improve Australia’s capability to realize associated international coverage targets. First, Australia has a longstanding goal to make sure that the G20 stays an efficient and legit discussion board, provided that there isn’t a assure that Australia would have a seat on the desk of another G8-plus sort discussion board if the G20 was disbanded. Therefore to the extent that Australia can reach steering world vitality governance reforms by the G20, it’ll assist to bolster the legitimacy of the G20 and Australia’s membership of it.

Second, efforts to reform the IEA membership by bringing nations resembling China, India, and Indonesia on board will assist Australia’s international coverage objective to make sure that these nations grow to be accountable stakeholders inside the worldwide system. Australia has efficiently pursued this goal within the area of finance by advocating for IMF reform, and Australian vitality diplomacy ought to do the identical for IEA reform.

Third, Australia has traditionally invested assets in an try to limit the expansion of financial battle between main powers, resembling america and Japan, and extra just lately america and China, with a view to preserve a peaceable multilateral worldwide order through which it could possibly prosper.

To the extent that Australian vitality diplomacy shifts away from a slim self-interested concentrate on export promotion, to enhancing world vitality governance in ways in which permit main powers to cooperate on vital points, resembling the foundations governing oil markets, or subsidies for fossil fuels, it’s also prone to ease rivalries and cut back potential battle.

Whereas Australia might be an vitality superpower, the facility of its vitality diplomacy has traditionally been restricted to selling fossil fuels and securing export markets. Taking a broader view of vitality diplomacy won’t solely assist to enhance the worldwide system governing vitality on which all of us rely, it’ll additionally reinforce Australia’s wider international coverage.


Dr. Christian Downie is an Australian Analysis Council DECRA Fellow (2018-2021) within the College of Regulation and World Governance on the Australian Nationwide College. He was beforehand a Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow on the College of New South Wales. Christian has labored as a international coverage advisor to the Australian Authorities’s Division of the Prime Minister and Cupboard and a local weather coverage advisor to the Division of Local weather Change. Christian holds a PhD in worldwide relations and political science from the Australian Nationwide College, having graduated from the College of Sydney with first-class honors in economics. His newest ebook, Enterprise Battles within the U.S. Power Sector, will likely be printed in 2019.

Picture: Flickr

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