This Thursday, 23 June, China’s President Xi Jinping opens the 2022 BRICS Summit, with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa gathering in a virtual meeting to “foster a high-quality BRICS partnership” and “usher in a new era for global development”.
Against the otherwise unavoidable backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, war is, unsurprisingly, off the summit agenda, to the disappointment of many Western observers. Nonetheless, the BRICS summit can still provide a forum for meaningful dialogue in other areas, particularly on energy cooperation and infrastructure.
As the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attest, the “triple planetary crisis” – of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – is intensifying. Energy is a key aspect of this crisis: globally, the energy sector accounts for two-thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions, which drive global warming and environmental changes.
Did you know?
The BRICS countries comprise nearly 3.2 billion people, and account for approximately 40% of the world’s energy consumption
Yet, energy is not just a problem, it is also a central part of the solution to tackling this crisis. More and more countries are adopting policies to encourage the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources, helping to mitigate climate change and harness new opportunities for sustainable development. But greater coordination and cooperation are needed across key actors – particularly the BRICS.
The emerging economies of the BRICS bloc are uniquely positioned to boost cooperation in green energy and related policies. As key players in the coal, oil, gas and nuclear sectors, their decisions and trajectories will be critical to meeting global targets, as will their efforts to support more efficient, just use of energy in the developing world. The BRICS countries comprise nearly 3.2 billion people, and account for approximately 40% of the world’s energy consumption. Without these nations onboard, there is no energy transition.
As providers of international mutual support, especially South–South cooperation through efforts such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative, they help shape practices and norms across the developing world. But renewable energy development in some of these countries has decelerated in recent years. Joint efforts are now needed to expand, innovate and promote best practices.
The BRICS should anticipate negative or unintended consequences of energy transitions in developing countries, and incorporate prevention approaches
During international climate negotiations, the BRICS countries have often emphasised that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. In this context, the BRICS have established frameworks to cooperate in energy development, for instance through the memorandum of understanding in energy saving and efficiency, signed in 2015. They have also promoted gatherings of their energy ministers and other high-level energy officials. Additionally, the BRICS Energy Research Platform, set up in 2018, brings together experts, companies and research institutes to coordinate common interests of the bloc’s nations in research and development of innovative technology and policies.
The topic of energy, and the energy transition, is receiving increasing attention in declarations released at the end of annual summits. The Moscow Declaration, which followed the 12th BRICS Summit in 2020, came with a roadmap for energy cooperation until 2025. The roadmap established the publication of the annual BRICS Energy Report and the institutionalisation of the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform, which had its first meeting in 2021. Furthermore, actors from business and finance sectors and civil society from across the nations are increasingly engaged in renewable energy efforts.