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At IEA Summit, UN chief urges countries to scrap coal, boost clean energy transition



United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on July 9 to invest in reliable, clean and economically smart renewable energy.

“I am encouraged that some COVID response and recovery plans put the transition from fossil fuels at their core,” he said at the first-ever International Energy Agency (IEA) Clean Energy Transitions Summit.

At a virtual meeting chaired by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, ministers representing over 80% of the global economy discussed how to achieve a definitive peak in global carbon dioxide emissions and put the world on course for a sustainable and resilient recovery.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson participated as well as ministers from the world’s largest energy users, including, China, United States, India, Japan, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia and Spain.

Speakers highlighted that the IEA Summit comes at a pivotal moment when the world faces urgent and shared challenges to build back economies, create jobs and accelerate clean energy transitions, the IEA said in a press release.

Guterres noted that the EU and the Republic of Korea have committed to green recovery plans. Nigeria has reformed its fossil fuel subsidy framework. Canada has placed climate disclosure conditions on its bail-out support.

“And a growing number of coalitions of investors and real economy stakeholders are advocating for a recovery aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. But many have still not got the message. Some countries have used stimulus plans to prop up oil and gas companies that were already struggling financially. Others have chosen to jumpstart coal-fired power plants that don’t make financial or environmental sense,” Guterres said, citing new research on G20 recovery packages released this week, which shows that twice as much recovery money — taxpayers’ money – has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy.

“Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route for three vital reasons — health, science and economics,” the UN Secretary General said.

He warned that worldwide, outdoor air pollution is causing close to 9 million early deaths every year and shortening human lifespans by an average of three years.

Moreover, he noted that all around the world, every month, there is new evidence of the increasing toll of climate disruption. “We must limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert more and worse disasters. This means net-zero emissions by 2050, and 45 percent cuts by 2030 from 2010 levels. This is still achievable,” Guterres said.

He stressed that clean energy makes economic sense. “Per kilowatt hour, solar energy is now cheaper than coal in most countries. If we had any doubt about the direction the wind is blowing, the real economy is showing us. The business case for renewable energy is now better than coal in virtually every market. Fossil fuels are increasingly risky business with fewer takers,” he said.

The IEA Executive Director issued a first call in March to put clean energy at the heart of the Covid-19 recovery. This early marker was followed by a comprehensive series of ‘damage assessments’ for how the crisis is impacting all fuels and all technologies; actionable recommendations for economic recovery plans; and the full utilisation of the IEA’s ever-growing convening power, the EIA said.

The World Energy Investment report in May warned of a 20% plunge in global energy investment in 2020, with worrying implications for clean energy transitions and security.

The IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan sets out 30 actionable, ambitious policy recommendations and targeted investments. The Plan, developed in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, would boost global economic growth by 1.1% per year, save or create 9 million jobs per year, and avoid a rebound in emissions and put them in structural decline. Achieving these results would require global investment of USD 1 trillion annually over the next three years.

According to the IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan, 35% of new jobs could be created through energy efficiency measures and another 25% in power systems, particularly in wind, solar and modernising and strengthening electricity grids. Participants at the IEA summit underlined the particular importance of energy efficiency, and expressed appreciation for the work of the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency.

In the Summit’s High-Level Panel on Accelerating Clean Energy Technology Innovation, co-chaired by Norway’s Minister of Petroleum Tina Bru and Chile’s Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobbed participants commended the new Energy Technology Perspectives Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation, which shows the vital importance of innovation for meeting shared energy and climate goals, the IEA said. Participants drew upon the IEA’s five key innovation principles and discussed how to scale up critical emerging technologies like batteries; hydrogen; carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS); and bioenergy.

In the High-Level Panel on an Inclusive and Equitable Recovery, co-chaired by Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan of and Morocco’s Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development Minister Aziz Rabbah, participants discussed the need to put people at the centre of recovery plans, including the most vulnerable, in order to fully harness diverse talents, backgrounds and perspectives. According to the IEA, they underscored the need to protect workers in the short term and to develop skills necessary for the sustainable, resilient energy systems of the future. Participants reinforced the importance of having a clear understanding for how to advance inclusive growth and to track progress, and held up the Equal by 30 campaign to advance gender equality as a valuable model.

Also, in the the High-Level Panel on a Resilient and Sustainable Electricity Sector co-chaired by Commissioner Simson and Thailand’s Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, participants recognised how indispensable electricity has been for citizens across the world during the crisis. A number of participants emphasised the transition towards a climate-neutral economy, the IEA said, adding that they noted the crucial role of electricity in clean energy transitions, participants underscored the historic opportunity to modernise and improve the sustainability, reliability and security of electricity systems with a diverse generation mix and higher flexibility to integrate larger shares of variable renewables.



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