Building momentum for a sustainable recovery

A hugely important day for the global conversation on energy and climate issues

Thursday 9 July was a hugely important day for the global conversation on energy and climate issues.

At the first ever IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit, 40 Ministers from countries representing more than 80% of the world economy discussed how to achieve a definitive peak in global carbon dioxide emissions and build momentum for a sustainable and resilient recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

I had the privilege of chairing this event, which brought together Ministers from the world’s largest energy consumers, including China, the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia and Spain. Altogether, the participants represented 80% of global energy use and emissions. Also speaking were United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, CEOs from a range of companies, top investors, heads of regional development banks and other key international organisations, and leaders from civil society. We were fortunate to have the participation of past and present Presidents of COP Summits, including UK Secretary of State Alok Sharma, the President of COP26.

The remarks by these energy and climate leaders from around the world were rich and insightful. They made clear their views and priorities regarding different fuels and energy technologies – and how they plan to advance their transitions to cleaner energy sources. The IEA is the natural venue for these conversations. It is the global authority on energy, covering all fuels and all technologies, and committed to leading clean energy transitions around the world.

We are also an organisation that believes in openness, which is why we made sure this meeting did not happen behind closed doors. It took place virtually and was livestreamed in its entirety. The discussions tackled global issues that affect every citizen worldwide, so we were delighted by the level of interest and engagement from viewers across the planet. All the sessions are available to watch here.

Many speakers highlighted that the Summit was taking place at a pivotal moment when the world faces urgent challenges to build back economies, create jobs and reduce global emissions. Three breakout sessions focused on the key themes of accelerating clean energy technology innovation, bringing about an inclusive and equitable recovery, and building a resilient and sustainable electricity sector.

Responding to the crisis

The Summit was the culmination of a series of key IEA activities in recent months. At our Ministerial Meeting in December, I announced plans to hold an IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit in 2020. When the Covid-19 pandemic began sweeping around the world, we led the calls in March for governments to put clean energy at the heart of recovery plans. This was followed by a comprehensive series of “damage assessments” by our teams on how the crisis was impacting different fuels and technologies.

This included analysis revealing the historic drops in global energy demand and carbon emissions that are expected this year – and a report that warned of an unprecedented plunge in global energy investment, with worrying implications for clean energy transitions and security.

However, we did more than just provide a picture of what the crisis was doing to the energy world. We also developed a Sustainable Recovery Plan that sets out policy measures and targeted investments to boost global economic growth by 1.1% per year, save or create 9 million jobs per year, and put emissions into structural decline. The Plans shows that 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.

We followed that with a Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation that assesses how technology innovation can be significantly accelerated today in order to make long-term climate and sustainable energy goals achievable. Finding ways to support and step up energy innovation is critical, especially as research budgets come under threat from the Covid-19 crisis.

These two reports helped inform the discussions at Thursday’s Summit, and numerous speakers highlighted their findings and policy advice. Participants also welcomed input to the Summit from other recent high-level meetings organised by the IEA in response to the Covid-19 crisis. These Ministerial roundtables focused on economic recovery through investments in clean energy; mobilising investments for secure and sustainable power systems; accelerating global progress on energy efficiency; and the impacts of Covid-19 on Africa’s energy sector.

Moving forward

During the Summit, I was heartened to hear speakers highlighting the importance of putting people at the centre of recovery plans, including those who are most vulnerable in the current circumstances, in order to harness diverse talents, backgrounds and perspectives. Participants underscored the need to protect workers in the short term and to enable them to develop skills necessary for the sustainable, resilient energy systems of the future.

One message that came through clearly was the importance of the IEA continuing to lead clean energy transitions globally and helping build momentum for sustainable recoveries. Many countries expressed interest in additional support from the IEA to help them implement sustainable recovery plans. And there was strong support for the IEA to continue tracking progress on clean energy transitions, especially to highlight progress in recovery plans.

Numerous speakers noted the success of the IEA’s Clean Energy Transitions Programme, which has enhanced our engagement with the world’s largest emerging economies, providing them with practical advice on their most consequential clean energy challenges. Just this past week, we announced a new cooperation project with Indonesia focusing on electricity and renewables.

It was very encouraging that we were able to bring together at the Summit so many key energy decision-makers from around the world. It reaffirmed my commitment to building a grand coalition focused on ambitious efforts to accelerate clean energy transitions. Secretary Sharma from the United Kingdom – the President of COP26, which will take place in November 2021 – praised the IEA for its efforts to boost momentum for national actions and international collaboration. He underscored the critical importance of increasing investment in clean energy technologies.

The Summit proved that international dialogue and collaboration can bring great value. It was an opportunity to inform, support and inspire each other. Now, it is time for all of us to get to work – building back our economies, bringing our citizens back to work, ensuring that 2019 was the definitive peak in global emissions and moving towards the resilient and sustainable energy systems of the future.

We intend to reconvene participants in mid-2021 at a second IEA Summit to ensure the world is doing its utmost to address these major challenges. But what I see today is momentum – momentum behind sustainable recovery and momentum behind clean energy transitions. We all need to do everything we can to keep building that momentum.