So I'm still here in Abu Dhabi. Yesterday, I had a chance to join some parts of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM).
When the taxi first brought me to the venue, I thought the driver had gotten the address wrong. I didn’t know these kind of palaces existed outside of Disney movies. But no, it was the right place ... So here I was, in the middle of all this gold and glitter, having lunch with energy ministers and their minions, talking about clean energy. Or rather "clean energy".
The location was impressive, but what those ministers said was everything but. The CEM countries account for more than 80 percent of global energy consumption. They have all the power to change things and make an energy revolution reality right now, if they want to. But from what I heard today - they are not ready.
Even in the face of Fukushima, all they commit to as the CEM is more voluntary partnerships for clean energy? Don´t you think it´s time for some real laws - and real action?
Oh, and then there is the question of what is actually "clean". In the closing press conference, both Britain´s Chris Huhne and America´s Steven Chu talked a lot about that biggest oxymoron there could ever be: “clean coal”. They both suggested that without coal we cannot solve global energy needs. In fact, I didn’t hear Mr. Huhne mentioning renewables or energy efficiency even once! That’s not an energy revolution. That’s a desperate attempt to continue business as usual.
That there is no alternative to more and more coal is, of course, not true. Luckily that myth was debunked immediately by Lykke Friis, the Danish climate minister. She first presented her Elvis principle: "a little less conversation, much more action" and then went on to present Denmark’s "declaration of independence". By 2050 Denmark will become independent of oil, coal and gas. More of this please (I know that government advisors have also presented a plan for Germany to have a 100 % renewable powered electricity system by 2050. So when will they declare their independence? Come on, Germany, don’t be shy!)
Of course 100 % renewable won’t happen overnight. But it will never happen, if your imagination is limited by the existing energy infrastructure. I was therefore delighted to have a chance to talk about the role renewables can play in ensuring also "baseload" energy supply with Ms. Dipuo Peters, the energy minister of South Africa. She was asking the right questions. I hope she will soon also give the right answers and learn about how elecricity grids can help deliver 100% renewables. South Africa does not need more nuclear and coal!
But back to the coal boys. When asked what “clean energy” policies mean for the US coal demand, Chu replied, in all seriousness, that it’s not about the amount of coal consumption - we just need to use coal cleanly. Right. And just a couple of days ago, Sultan Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates said that in addition to solar and wind, the United Arab Emirates will invest in “clean oil” and “clean nuclear”.
George Orwell would have been proud of these politicians. War is peace. Dirty is clean. Please help us clean the imagination of these guys - by signing up for our energy revolution.
As I leave the Disney-like Emirates Palace Hotel, I wonder when the first CLEAN Energy Ministerial will really take place. This time, it was mostly just "clean".
Kaisa Kosonen is a Climate Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International