IEA announces key projects to guide clean energy transitions across the globe

EDFatihBirol1Speaking at a streamed event, Faith Birol, executive director at the International Energy Agency (IEA), outlined the five key projects the IEA has planned to ensure that 2021 is a pivotal, positive year for global transitions to clean energy

Birol opened the proceedings by providing an overview of the international energy market as it is emerging from the effects of the pandemic in 2020. The director noted that 2020 was a huge shock to the energy market, with global energy demand falling by 5% (seven times deeper than the decline after the financial crises in 2008). Whereas many sectors such as oil and gas suffered dramatically from this (oil demand declined by around 25%), renewables ‘defeated COVID’; it was the only energy source that increased last year with solar and wind power seeing significant increases.

As a result of these changes, in 2020, global emissions declined by around 7%, bringing global emissions back ten years. While this is a positive statistic, Birol was keen to emphasise that this was due to energy demand decline, not structural policies to reduce emissions and accelerate clean energy. In fact the IEA calculates that as global economies begin to bounce back as COVID recedes, fossil fuel consumption will also recover – already China’s oil consumption is today larger than it was one year ago. 

Birol commented, “This year is pivotal for the world. Many of the large economies of the world have committed themselves to net zero targets by the mid-century, as have large energy companies. In 2021 we will see a huge amount of stimulus packages from major economies; trillions of dollars injected into the global economy and I hope they put clean energy at the heart of these recovery plans. In 2021 leaders of the world will gather together at COP26. Expectations are running high and we are looking forward with great optimism that world leaders will agree and ensure the energy industry and its investors know what will be profitable and what won’t be.”

To ensure the world does not waste this unique opportunity Birol noted that his first, second and third priority was to ensure that the IEA leads the global clean energy transition in a secure and affordable way. He outlined the IEA’s five key 2021 projects in pursuit of this:

Special report entitled ‘The World’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050’
-This will identify what is needed for the government, investors, industry and citizens to decarbonise the energy sector and turn ambitions into reality. The study will provide concrete recommendations so that policy makers around the world can make the best decisions for themselves and the planet. It will be released on 18 May.

IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit
-Last July witnessed the first inaugural clean energy transition summit which featured more than 40 ministers from around the world, representing countries that account for around 80% of global emissions. This year the IEA will call for another summit and expand participation for more ministers, as well as energy industry leaders and investors. This event will take place on 31 March.

Global Commision: Our Inclusive Energy Future
-A key aspect of the clean energy transition is to ensure the social and economic impact on individuals are considered, and that this process is as fair and inclusive as possible. Birol will convene a new high level global commission to bring together a panel of government and industry leaders to examine these issues. The commission will be headed by the prime minister of Denmark, Metter Frederiksen.

Special report on Financially Clean Energy Transitions in Developing Economies
-Noting that the emissions are growing most of all in developing countries in regions such as Southeast Asia and Africa, the IEA will produce a report to provide advice on building green energy in these areas. This project is being produced in collaboration with the World Bank and the World Economic Forum and will be released during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in May.

Special report on the Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions
-Energy security is a key issue and if transitions across the world are not secure then they will not be repeated. This report will focus on ensuring clean energy technologies can rely on a sufficient supply of critical minerals and that these are acquired responsibly. This study will be released in April. 

In concluding the event, Briol commented, “The energy that powers our daily lives and our economies also produces three quarters of global emissions. This means that our climate challenge is essentially an energy challenge. The IEA is determined to take on that challenge and lead clean energy transitions around the world.

“There are three dimensions to this. First, ensure that the world has a clear understanding of how this transition can happen. Second, help government, companies, citizens meet their ambitions. Third, track and monitor the progress of countries in order to reach their targets.”

All of the reports mentioned here will be available for free upon release on the IEA website (


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