A global business case for the energy transition through public affairs

For its annual trend report, this year the Dr2 Consultants network conducted interviews with experts to examine public affairs in the energy transition between China and the EU.

The general conclusion is clear: governments need to create a global business case so that civil society can truly reap the benefits of international cooperation. Public affairs is an important tool in this.


Contrary to the current course of international policy, our research found that creating a level playing field does not start with high-level multilateral agreements. The pragmatic approach of the private sector in China and the EU has resulted in successful bilateral cooperation, which can serve as a model for better international policy.

Four trends were discovered in the interviews:

First, governments can learn from each other. Finding the right combination between policy strengths from China and the EU may accelerate the international energy transition. Important in this is that the private sector has a prominent place for input in the government-to-government discussions. Zhonghua Xu from TotalEnergies Asia confirms from practical experience that Chinese people are big risk-takers, (….) eager to test ideas on a large scale into the market. On the other hand, Europe is really good in taking initiative. So working together, we can achieve the carbon neutral mark.

Second, international policy does not reflect current reality. Flora Kan of the EU-China Energy Cooperation Platform, describes that international cooperation in the energy transition is predominantly led by the private sector and is often more pragmatic and innovative. Companies that have boots on the ground in multiple countries already engage in cooperation which bridges differences and addresses the local issues at hand. Whereas multilateral discussions over binding agreements are very time-consuming, and we are only nine years away from the 2030 targets.

Third, civil society needs governments to create a global business case. The foundation of successful international collaboration, especially in the energy transition, is trust. Without tackling unequal competition and socio-economic differences this trust will be difficult to build up. Only global level playing field can ensure that no one stays left behind, and that companies can compete on an equal level. Highlighted by Ulco Vermeulen at Gasunie; we can’t do much about natural conditions, but we can do something about the global market. If you can organize together, everyone benefits.

And fourth, public affairs is bridging the world! Innovation cannot thrive without the people facilitating international cooperation. Simon Lemin of TÜVSÜD China mentions that private companies need to get involved in international organizations so that they can steer policy and standards. As mentioned by Christof van Agt of the International Energy Forum, people-to-people diplomacy is excruciatingly important to ensure the transmission of ideas and inspiration, and to overcome cultural differences.  

The “Annual Trend Report 2021, The Energy Transition in China and the EU” can be downloaded for free here.

Frans van Drimmelen, founder and CEO of Dr2 Consultants:

“Every year, our international team researches an important development in the field of public affairs. This time we have chosen to focus on the energy transition, as we see that civil society is eager for deeper cooperation with governments to achieve workable solutions. Dr2 hopes to contribute to increased and more efficient international policy dialogues through the content of this report.”

The Annual Trend Report 2021 includes interviews with high-level representatives from amongst others the International Energy Forum (IEF), EU-China Energy Cooperation Platform (ECECP), TotalEnergies, European Union Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC), TÜV SÜD, Gasunie, Dutch National Hydrogen Platform, and the Province of South Holland.

About the Dr2 Consultants network

Dr2 Consultants is a strategic consultancy network that operates at the intersection of corporate communication and public affairs, with offices in The Hague (Dröge & van Drimmelen), Brussels, Copenhagen, New York and Shanghai. We advise public and private institutions all over the world on how to acquire social and political support for their issues. All offices within the Dr2 network facilitate public-private cooperation in the energy transition and related areas; clean energy, CCU, (food-)waste management, etc.