The 25th Meeting of the Energy Charter Conference was held on 26-27 November 2014 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. In 2014 Kazakhstan was the first Contracting Party of the Energy Charter Treaty to take on the Chairmanship of the Conference. The new practice was seen to be successful by all, not only in terms of the Meeting, but in terms of the priorities that had been set by Kazakhstan for the Charter Process throughout the year. On 1 January 2015 Georgia will become the second Contracting Party to take responsibility for the Chairmanship of the Energy Charter Conference. The 26th Meeting of the Conference will therefore take place in Tbilisi in November 2015.
One of the most important outcomes of this historic Meeting of the Conference is the Astana Declaration of the Energy Charter Process. The Astana Declaration is a political document that will guide the Conference over the coming years to fulfil its important role in global energy architecture and to provide its unique internationally enforceable legal framework for the benefit of global energy security.
The Conference in Statutory Session welcomed the progress made since the decision at the 23rd Meeting of the Conference in Warsaw to engage in a process to update the 1991 Energy Charter. All participants (including non-signatories of the 1991 Charter) were invited to sign the new political declaration, at the Ministerial Conference on the International Energy Charter in The Hague in 2015. This is to be known as The Hague (II).
During the Statutory Session the Conference recalled the approval given some days earlier to the Conclusions of the comprehensive review of the work carried out during the previous five years (2009-2014). It was confirmed that prioritising and focusing implementation efforts on the core areas of the Treaty would contribute to the promotion of long-term co-operation in the energy field and to energy security.
The Model Energy Charter Early Warning Mechanism (EWM) was welcomed by delegates. This Model EWM allows parties to voluntarily refer to it in order to prevent and overcome emergency situations in the energy sector related to the Transit and supply of electricity, natural gas, oil and oil products through cross-border grids and pipelines.
One further issue considered by the Statutory Session was the establishment of a Working Group to deal with several procedural issues including voting rights, the procedure for the appointment of the Secretary General, and some necessary updates to the procedural rules.
The Ministerial Session provided for the exchange of views among Ministers, Secretaries General and leading officials from government, international organisations and companies. The strategic relevance of the Astana Declaration was strongly endorsed. The Ministerial Session focused on the topic “Development of Transit Corridors – a Key to global energy security”. In their interventions, the various distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegations considered global energy challenges, specific regional issues, and the possible ways to address those by means of closer international cooperation. Growing energy consumption worldwide, increasing dependence on energy imports were referred to as challenges which are as pressing as climate change. It was acknowledged that huge investments need to be made to meet future energy demand.
The strategic importance of energy to 21st century societies was referred to, as was the need to consider energy as not merely a commodity. Ministers and delegates emphasised the need to ensure energy security for all through cooperation with their neighbours and international partners. Common energy projects, it was agreed, could become a basis for closer cooperation. Infrastructure such as pipelines and grids connecting countries could thus be the source of long standing friendship and cooperation.
Many delegations spoke of the need to diversify sources and routes of supply, to provide universal access to energy, and to decrease the environmental damage of energy use. Transit corridors have a key role to play in this regard.
There was much discussion on the potential of the Caspian region as a source of new energy supplies in terms of oil and gas. But it would be necessary to develop new energy corridors.
Renewable energy was another promising alternative source considered. Renewable energy helps to secure growing energy demand and is available virtually everywhere, in traditional energy producing, consuming and transit countries. Renewable energy does not pose risks to economic development, but rather offers new potential for economic growth.
There was agreement that governments have an important role to play in facilitating the development of energy corridors. Governments need to rely on the assistance of international organisations like the Energy Charter. Predictability and stability in the energy sector, open and transparent energy markets and effective instruments to settle disputes are indispensable for the necessary investments to be made. At the same time, the private sector has a responsibility not only in making the investments, but also by focusing energy projects on their commercial benefit. Energy companies have an important role in de-politicising energy transit routes.
There was confirmation that member states and companies rely on the Energy Charter in two ways: first, as a political forum, bringing together energy producing, consuming and transit countries, to promote friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation. Secondly, the Energy Charter Treaty provides a legally binding framework with rules on energy investment, trade and transit. The unique framework of the Charter should therefore be further expanded geographically, to include new member countries. The scope of the Charter should also be deepened, by developing the common rules it provides.
Those common rules which were traditionally focused on Europe and the former Soviet Union could bring great benefits to other regions of the world. This was the context in which the Minster of Economy of The Netherlands, Mr. Kamp, invited Ministers and others to convene in The Hague in May 2015 to adopt and sign the International Energy Charter. This document will be one of the main instruments to promote the geographical expansion of the Energy Charter.