In our changing energy resource landscape, the importance of energy co-operation and diplomacy among BRICS are essential for the bloc’s success and sustainability.
Energy co-operation among BRICS countries can significantly contribute to the success of BRICS as an economic bloc. For this to happen, an innovative BRICS energy co-operation plan must be developed which considers the following: the historical energy diplomacy of the BRICS countries, the dynamics of international energy markets and the changing
energy resource landscape for future energies which is being spurred by various factors, including the COP 21 agreement – also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference – which set a target to keep the rise in temperature of the earth’s atmosphere below 2°C.
BRICS should strive to promote energy security and sustainable development by finding ways to provide accessible,
affordable, reliable, and modern energy. Therefore, its energy policies must promote economic growth, support collaborations on energy technologies and reflect innovative financing models.
South Africa, in particular, has to look at energy co-operation in terms of including its diplomacy principles and its positioning as the BRICS gateway to the African continent, given that this country’s development is interlinked with that of the entire African continent.
BRICS ENERGY DIPLOMACY
Although BRICS is an alliance of five countries spanning four continents, member states differ in terms of their social, political and economic situations. According to Leonava et al (2007) (Armijo 2007), each BRICS state has its own growth trajectory and resources. As a result, energy consumption as an economic bloc varies according to each country’s individual needs.
In 2009, when the bloc was known as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) – before the inclusion of South Africa in 2010 – it accounted for a fifth of the world’s economy and 43% of the world’s population (Yao et al. 2009). After South Africa’s inclusion, the group as a collective consumed more energy than the G7 countries.
In this respect, two countries in BRICS – China and India – are set to change the global energy landscape because of their
consumption patterns. China remains the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal and looks poised to overtake the United States as the largest oil consumer by the 2030s. It also has a larger gas market share than the European Union.
Unlike China, India accounts for no more than 6% of global energy users. However, India is entering a sustained period of rapid growth in energy consumption due to increased demand for coal in power generation and industry. This makes India the largest source of growth in global coal use. It is also showing an increased demand for oil.
In preparing a successful energy co-operation plan within BRICS, past discussions – including those dating back
to the first BRIC summit, held in Russia in 2009 – must be considered:
»»In 2009, in Yekaterinburg in Russia, this joint statement was issued by BRIC at its inaugural summit: “We stand for
strengthening co-ordination and cooperation among states in the energy field, including among energy producers and
consumers and transit states, in an effort to decrease uncertainty and ensure stability and sustainability. We support diversification of energy resources and supply, including renewable energy, security of energy
transit routes and creation of new energy investments and infrastructure.”
»»The 2011 BRICS summit took place in Sanya on the island of Hainan, China. This is where the Sanya Declaration was
signed, emphasising the significance of co-operation in developing renewable energy resources. The bloc called for the
strengthening of international co-operation to stabilise energy prices.
»»In 2012, at the BRICS summit in Delhi, India, the Delhi Declaration was issued which cautioned against the risk of energy
»»In 2013, the Durban Action Plan was issued at the BRICS summit, held in South Africa.
It included energy as a new area of cooperation for BRICS.
For all these declarations, the following critical questions remain: How will BRICS
countries co-operate on energy? What are the constraints and opportunities involved?
How can an energy co-operation deal be ratified that takes into account the diverse
requirements of the bloc?
The full version of this article first appeared in Issue 4 of BRICS Journal, as part of our partnership with The National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS).