Energy Podium explained to foreigners

Energiepodium verklaard voor buitenlanders

In a column that has just appeared on, GasTerra’s spokesman Anton Buijs reports on how he presented this platform to an international public during the recent World Gas Conference in Washington.

World Gas Conference

Just before the summer holidays, the American capital was the centre of the global gas world for a week. The significance of gas, particularly natural gas, within the worldwide energy supply, as well as other aspects and perspectives, were discussed during the World Gas Conference, which takes place once every three years, by representatives from companies, organisations, governments and think tanks. Coby van der Linde and Martien Visser have already written on these matters on the Energy Podium.

I was able to present our Energy Podium during one of the panel sessions, for the reason that it is a unique project not only in the Netherlands but also beyond. The website and accompanying events are financed by one commercial company, GasTerra, which determines the blueprint but tries not to get involved with the content of the contributions. The opinions that are expressed on the Energy Podium or during meetings organised under the banner of the Energy Podium are not necessarily consistent with the views of GasTerra (often not at all), but that's not important. On the contrary: the whole point is to present a dialogue, to exchange ideas and opinions between experts and parties concerned.

Just ordinary people

There is nothing comparable anywhere, at least not as an initiative set up by a party with a specific agenda or interests in the energy and climate debate. After all, organisations are just groups of people: they are better at proclaiming their own ideas than listening to others, especially where topics such as the energy transition are concerned, with its ideological overtones. That applies not only to companies but certainly also to NGOs. In my experience they struggle, precisely because they are driven by ideals, even more than the 'establishment' to appreciate that, for every sensible argument there is also often a rational counterargument to be proposed. They don't always see that confrontation between the two ideally leads to a compromise with which every party concerned can identify and which is in best interests of achieving the common objective

Tough job

Interpreting the Energy Podium for people from other cultures, with different political customs to those of our low-lying polder land, is a challenge under any circumstances. During the panel session, I emphasised that – if we want these types of initiative to be successful – we need to respect each other's points of view and accusing or even criminalising those who think differently to us is counterproductive. Furthermore, you have to be in agreement about a vision. Here, this is the awareness that the Paris Climate Agreement is not a non-binding declaration of intent but a tough job to be undertaken by every country that signed it. At the World Gas Conference these ideas brought me into the NGO camp, certainly when I also observed that, ultimately, we have to move away from fossil fuels including relatively clean natural gas. Bien etonné de se trouver ensemble, as the French would say. Read more on (in Dutch only).

Anton Buijs, Manager External Relations GasTerra