The virtual Clean Energy Transitions Summit convened yesterday by the International Energy Agency produced new calls for the Paris-based agency to put a 1.5°C ceiling for average global warming at the centre of its attempt to lead on climate change.
International climate organizations have long been concerned that the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) drives fossil industry investment and climate breakdown with an analytic approach that assumes fossil growth far beyond what a realistic global carbon budget would allow. With the IEA now trying to carve out a lead role in a sustainable pandemic recovery, the executive directors of Greenpeace International and Oil Change International are renewing calls for the agency to rethink its modelling.
“The IEA’s rhetoric has been good. IEA head Fatih Birol was one of the first to call for a clean energy recovery, and the headlines from its recent sustainable recovery report highlighted the merits of green stimulus in COVID-19 recovery strategies and made clear governments should adopt such measures,” write Jennifer Morgan and Elizabeth Bast. “It suggests global spending of US$3 trillion over three years, to boost clean energy growth and ensure that emissions continue on a downward trajectory.”
But there’s still a gap between the agency’s PR and its day-to-day practices, Morgan and Bast say.
“When it comes to the IEA’s bread and butter—data and analysis—the agency has a lot to prove if it is seeking to earn climate credibility,” they explain. “Despite growing calls for reform, it continues to push forward a dangerous 3°C business-as-usual ‘central scenario’” in the annual WEO.
“A central scenario to keep global warming to a far safer 1.5°C (without over-reliance on negative emissions technologies) would not only prove the IEA’s seriousness on climate action but also give political and financial decision-makers much needed tools to plan for the success of the Paris Agreement,” they add.
During yesterday’s sessions, technical glitches prevented Stephan Singer, senior advisor at Climate Action Network-International (CAN), from delivering an intervention urging assembled government ministers to embrace a green recovery.
“Ministers, we cannot go back to pre-corona times,” Singer said. “2019 saw the largest fossil fuel CO2 emissions ever, the world faces extinction of species and destruction of ecosystems at a huge scale. Freshwater scarcity, food insecurity are growing to crisis levels. About four million people die from air pollution each year. Fossil fuels and climate change have their dirty fingers in all of these.”
And “that means, dear ministers, you should already be preparing for a global phaseout of fossil fuels by mid-century latest, as shown by science and the IPCC to avoid many irreversible climate impacts. CAN requests the IEA to provide you with tools needed for success by making a 1.5°C global scenario central to your decisions.”