Summit Opens at “Critical Moment” for Energy, Political Landscape

This morning marked the opening of the Atlantic Council’s sixth annual Energy and Economic Summit. A roster of distinguished leaders—including Atlantic Council Chairman Jon Huntsman, Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yıldız, EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action Miguel Arias Cañete, US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, and Summit Director Orhan Taner—welcomed some 400 government and private sector leaders from from over forty countries to Istanbul’s Grand Tarabya hotel.

Frederick Kempe kicked off the proceedings, reflecting on the current “critical moment in history” where “the international liberal order itself may be at stake.” With so much at stake in the region, Kempe said, “we hope this Summit will give [business leaders and policymakers] new ideas” to tackle global challenges to energy security and political stability.

Governor Jon Huntsman followed Kempe with welcoming remarks for the many distinguished policymakers, diplomats, and business leaders attending this year’s Summit. He echoed Kempe’s call to action, focusing his remarks on two key obstacles facing the energy sector today: turmoil in Iraq and Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine that threatens the vision of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace.”

Summit Director Orhan Taner gave an overview of the Summit’s theme: Doing Business in Turbulent Times. Doing business, Taner explained, meant more than just deals between businesses, but also between government and the private sector, as well as governments doing what Taner called “the business of making peace” across the region.

Taner Yıldız commented on the complex interplay of energy, politics, and economics that are shaping Turkey and its neighborhood. Yildiz said that energy can be a driver of war and peace, and pointed to Iraq and Kurdistan’s ongoing negotiations as a sign of political progress driven by energy sector concerns. He noted continuing challenges to energy supplies, as 1.3 billion people still lack access to energy, and mentioned that Trans-Anatolian Pipeline will help address this concern.

Miguel Arias Cañete used his welcoming remarks to focus attention on the European Union’s efforts to combat climate change. Citing the statistic that the European Union imports over a billion euros worth of energy per day, Cañete reminded the audience of the pressing need to continue to develop renewable energy resources and curb emissions as international leaders continue to hammer out the details of more comprehensive climate agreements.

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz wrapped up the opening session by expanding on the Summit’s theme of turbulence. Drawing on his background as a physicist, Moniz described turbulence as a flow characterized by unpredictability. If harnessed properly, said Moniz, this moment of turbulence could be an impetus for many positive changes in the energy sector. He pointed to a number of recent opportunities, including as indicators of positive trends, even as political and security developments in the Middle East and Eastern Europe cast a pall over . Moniz called Energy security is not just a problem for every individual country to consider: it is a collective responsibility for allies and friends to work toward. That collective responsibility presents what Moniz labeled “a collective opportunity” for action.

Check back in later today for updates on the summit, and be sure to follow @AtlanticCouncil using #ACSummit throughout the day for live updates.

Eric Gehman is assistant director for publications and communications at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter at @ericgehman.