TANA JOHNSON: Q&A Global Energy Governance

Tana Johnson, assistant professor of public policy and political science, contributed to Global Governance 2022 in 2012 and 2013. GG2022 was organized by a consortium including universities, the Robert Bosch Foundation and think tanks such as the Brookings Institution. Young professionals in government, academia, nonprofits and the private sector were selected to use scenario-planning methods to envision how global energy structures might look in 10 years. They disseminated their policy recommendations through a final report, op-eds, policy papers and high-profile presentations in Berlin, Beijing and Washington, D.C., throughout 2012 and 2013. Johnson worked with colleagues from China, Germany and the United States.

Why was GG2022 needed? Even though the number and range of global energy problems are increasing, few international institutions enable governments to coordinate in governing energy. International dialogue on energy is limited, climate policy has lost momentum, and energy markets remain unpredictable. So, there is a need to rethink the structures we have in place and strive to design more effective ones.

Professor Tana JohnsonWho designs most international institutions? You might think that governments alone design most inter-governmental organizations. But the reality – which I show in my research – is that most of the time negotiations to design a new institution include the staff of existing intergovernmental organizations, too. These unelected international bureaucrats, in the United Nations system and elsewhere, often bring useful expertise, but their involvement also fuels worries about “democratic deficits” in international policymaking because they are far removed from the attention and control of the general public.

Do the circumstances surrounding the design of international institutions influence their effectiveness? Certainly. Look at the International Energy Agency. The IEA is the world’s main institution for coordinating international energy security and consumption, yet major consuming countries such as China and India are not members. Why? Because when the IEA was designed during the oil crises of the 1970s, it was shaped in some important ways by staff within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The staff had experience managing energy stockpiles, but they also had an interest in making sure the new institution would be a partner, not a competitor, with their own organization. To date, only OECD members may be IEA members. But since OECD membership is limited to industrialized democracies, that leaves non-democratic or developing countries out of the IEA. It’s hard to have effective international energy governance without those countries.

What was in your group’s final report? We envisioned two distinct energy scenarios for the world in 2022. Both scenarios see unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and shale gas reshaping energy relationships among countries in the next 10 years. In the “Integrated Market” scenario, the emergence of more producer countries alleviates some anxiety about energy needs, and countries around the world get their supplies from integrated international energy markets. Closer cooperation in energy trade creates a platform for climate leadership and regional climate agreements. In contrast, in the “Fragmented World” scenario, countries bypass international markets and instead rely on regional partnerships for securing their energy needs. Global climate change negotiations remain stagnant, but the regional partnerships do create space for promising regional investments in cleaner technologies.

Are there policy recommendations that would fit for both of these contrasting scenarios? Yes, these are what we call “lead strategies.” For instance, one is to strengthen institutions for international energy governance. The IEA needs to increase its outreach to China, India and other important nonmembers. And the G-20, which includes major industrialized countries and the big emerging economies, can complement the IEA as a forum for dialogue on energy policy. Another recommendation is to bolster clean-energy provisions in economic agreements. With the stall of the current Doha round of international trade negotiations, the United States and other countries have been pursuing scores of bilateral or regional trade and investment agreements.  If we are able to insert provisions, such as intellectual property assurances, to incentivize development and adoption of clean-energy technology, we may even see some progress with climate change.

How has the report been received? We presented our preliminary recommendations at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and received useful feedback from commentators from the RAND Corp., U.S. State Department, School of International Service at American University and American Security Project. When our final report was published in late 2013, we also distributed it to experts we had consulted earlier in Germany and China: for instance, people from the European Climate Foundation, Hertie School of Governance, German Federal Foreign Office, Beijing University, and Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. And when Gen. David Petraeus visited Duke a few months ago, he and I discussed the very real possibility that we’re already seeing the beginning of the “Fragmented World” scenario in North America, with vigorous energy infrastructure projects among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.