4th Universal Meeting of the IEA Technology Collaboration Programme examines ways to enhance international cooperation

On 26-28 October 2021, the IEA Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP) held its fourth biannual Universal Meeting in which about 130 representatives from over 40 international collaborative initiatives held in-depth discussions on the role multilateral platforms for energy innovation can play in advancing governments’ net zero emissions plans after COP26. The online meeting immediately followed a session of the IEA’s Committee on Energy Research and Technology (CERT).

Reaching net zero by 2050 requires international cooperation between governments, businesses, investors and citizens. According to IEA analysis, countries need to speed up the rollout of available clean and efficient technologies immediately while preparing for the widespread adoption of technologies that may not be ready for market before 2030. The latter will only materialise on time if there are major innovation efforts this decade. 

At this week’s meeting, the IEA, the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) and Mission Innovation (MI) encouraged governments to take greater advantage of existing multilateral initiatives to transform their climate ambitions into action. For over 40 years, the TCP network has contributed to advancing clean energy technologies worldwide, and together, the three platforms host over 70 multilateral initiatives covering all technologies and fuels, from research and development to setting policy frameworks for faster market uptake.

“Without effective international collaboration, reaching climate targets will take much more time and be more costly,’’ IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the start of the TCP meeting. “TCPs and other multilateral initiatives are of crucial importance.” 

Dr Birol called on world leaders meeting at the COP26 Climate Change Conference next week in Glasgow to “push the innovation button,” adding that “international collaboration and innovation will be at the heart of discussions.”

Amanda Wilson, Chair of the CERT, moderated an opening panel with the IEA, CEM and MI. She noted that multilateral initiatives "provide foundational knowledge for governments around the world" to inform policy making. Citing the importance of communication channels, she called on participants to build on the "various levers and audiences that each international initiative has access to – whether policy, regulatory or technical expertise, or access to Ministers, scientists, or diplomats."

Timur Gül, Head of the IEA Energy Technology Policy Division and Secretary to the IEA CERT, emphasised the critical role collaborative platforms play in “sharing knowledge and reducing transaction costs for national organisations to find partners to learn from and work with”. He called for enhanced cooperation across platforms and strong mandates from governments to ensure collaborative efforts, avoid duplication and ensure that initiatives are geared towards net zero emissions goals. “To reach net zero by 2050, multilateral initiatives will need to work together effectively and closely to advance technology innovation, and governments will need to ensure these initiatives can help deliver on their net zero ambitions,” Dr Gül said.

Dan Dorner, Head of the CEM Secretariat, noted that “the world is changing quickly and we need to adapt accordingly. When there is a proliferation of new initiatives, additions can be beneficial if they continuously add value, but not if they dilute the impact of existing efforts”. Calling for a “cross-pollination of our initiatives and knowledge” to strengthen cooperation, he added that “CEM, TCPs and MI are a set of collaborative platforms that are already closely aligned and can benefit from working together even more closely”. He said he wanted multilateral initiatives to become more flexible, nimble and ambitious to better help governments “turn words into action”.

Similarly, Jennie Dodson, Head of the MI Secretariat, said multilateral initiatives help “groups of countries come together around common themes of interest and can push the frontier of clean technologies, helping to drive ambition in other diplomatic forums” – such as at COP26, where new MI Missions will be launched. She called for all collaborative platforms to “identify clear goals and targets, track progress and be action focused” to support government efforts towards net zero. “No single initiative will have all the necessary knowledge, relationships and levers to drive change at the pace and scale needed. If initiatives can align towards the same goals and outcomes, each with a clear specific purpose, we can create a vast network of action that can build momentum greater than each initiative alone.”

Ms Wilson, the Chair, concluded the session by noting a “clear call for action” ahead of COP26.

The Universal Meeting also included three thematic sessions, based on priority areas of work identified by CERT and TCPs. The first session focused on how multilateral initiatives can work more closely together. The second looked at increasing the global reach of the TCPs and attracting new members, building on two recent IEA handbooks for TCPs and other clean energy initiatives specifically addressing these themes. The third session examined how TCPs can further enhance the communication strategy of their programmes to increase their reach and impact.

The organisation of the TCP universal meeting benefited from contributions from the Clean Energy Transitions in Emerging Economies programme, which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 952363.