IEA head calls for grand coalition to address climate

13 February 2020

A "grand coalition" of all stakeholders is needed to address the challenge of climate change, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol said yesterday during the latest in the Paris-based organisation's Big Ideas speaker series. This must involve the energy sector, he said, as it accounts for most of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

The Big Ideas event at the IEA's headquarters (Image: IEA)

The IEA released data on 11 February that showed, despite widespread expectations of another increase, global energy-related CO2 emissions had stopped growing in 2019. After two years of growth, global emissions were unchanged at 33 gigatonnes in 2019 even as the world economy expanded by 2.9%. According to the IEA, this was primarily due to declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, thanks to the expanding role of renewable sources (mainly wind and solar), fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power generation.

"The debate around climate change is sometimes too heated and there is too much tension between the energy community and the climate change community," Birol said. "We think this debate needs to be taken in a cool-headed manner. This calls for a grand coalition that brings together all the stakeholders that have a genuine commitment to reducing emissions - governments, industry, financial institutions, international organisations and civil society. Without this grand coalition, it will be very difficult to address this challenge."

The IEA said it is focusing on both energy security and global clean energy transitions, helping governments steer the energy sector towards international climate targets in a secure, sustainable and affordable manner. "The immediate aim will be to focus on concrete actions to reverse the growth in carbon emissions this decade, focusing on all the fuels and existing technologies that can help achieve this goal rapidly," the IEA said.

"Without solving the challenge of the energy sector, we have no chance of solving our climate challenge," Birol told delegates at the event, which was attended by ambassadors and other senior officials from about 50 countries as well as representatives from industry, financial bodies and international organisations. "We want 2019 to be remembered as the year of peaking global emissions and the 2020s as the decade of the decline in emissions. And the energy sector is ready to be part of the solution."

Commenting on the report, Agneta Rising, director general of World Nuclear Association, said: "We need to ensure that this halt in greenhouse gas emissions is not only a plateau, but the beginning of a rapid decline. This will only be achieved by a much greater contribution from nuclear energy, as a key component of a low-carbon energy system." Calling for all low-carbon technologies to work together now to achieve the clean energy transition, she said: "The nuclear industry stands ready to play its part, with our goal to supply 25% of the world's electricity before 2050. But we need governments and other key decision makers to take the actions necessary to help us deliver this."

The IEA plans to host a Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July, bringing together government ministers, CEOs, investors and other major stakeholders from around the world. The agency will publish two major studies ahead of the summit. A World Energy Outlook Special Report will map out how to cut global energy-related carbon emissions by one-third by 2030. The latest Energy Technology Perspectives report will focus on an energy sector pathway for reaching net-zero emissions, looking in detail at all technology opportunities that could help to reduce emissions in hard-to-abate sectors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News