IEA and G20 call for acceleration of clean energy transition

The International Energy Agency estimates global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be 8% lower this year than in 2019

FILE - In this July 27, 2018, file photo, the Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyo. The Trump administration on Friday targeted an Obama-era regulation credited with helping dramatically reduce toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants, saying the benefits to human health and the environment may not be worth the cost of the regulation. The 2011 Obama administration rule, called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, led to what electric utilities say was an $18 billion clean-up of mercury and other toxins from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)

The International Energy Agency and the Business 20, which represents the business community in the Group of 20 (G20), the world's largest economies, called on countries in the bloc to accelerate clean energy transitions.

Their call to action follows a record decline in energy demand and emissions, induced by the coronavirus pandemic, which led to widespread mobility restrictions around the world.

The joint statement calls on countries to "accelerate the deployment of existing low-emissions and emissions-neutral technologies, and boost innovation in crucial technology areas including hydrogen, batteries, and carbon capture utilisation and storage.”

The B20 and IEA called for the improvement of global energy data transparency and evaluating energy market risks to enhance the stability of energy markets.

The two sides stressed the need to take necessary steps to secure energy systems and provide access to affordable and uninterrupted flow of clean energy. The called for the implementation of energy pricing and tax reforms.

“Mobilising the critical investments for meeting international energy and climate goals requires a grand coalition spanning governments, companies, investors and citizens,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

"Despite the challenges we face from the Covid-19 crisis, stronger clean energy actions and ambitions from a growing number of governments and companies around the world make me increasingly optimistic for the future,” he added.

The IEA estimates global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be 8 per cent lower this year than in 2019, largely due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the health crisis, which has forced governments to allocate resources towards priority sectors, also threatens to derail energy investments, with funding for energy transition expected to slump 20 per cent this year.

Around $3.5 trillion (Dh12.8tn) is required between now and 2050 to meet targets for a “sustainable path” the Paris-based agency said.

Earlier this year, the IEA said $1tn, or the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of global economic output, is needed over the next three years to sustainably rebuild economies post the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yousef Al Benyan, the chair of B20, which is hosted by Saudi Arabia this year, said the pandemic and historically low energy prices afforded “a unique opportunity for governments to enact policies that steer their clean energy transitions at low financial, political and social cost."

Mr Al Benyan is also the vice chairman and chief executive of Saudi Basic Industries (Sabic).

Separately, G20 trade and investment ministers will meet this week to discuss trade policies to boost inclusive and sustainable economic growth amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

They will discuss ways to support the necessary reforms of the World Trade Organisation. These discussions will focus on improving the international competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), increasing economic diversification and strengthening international investment, the G20 said.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Commerce Majid Al Qasabi and Minister of Investment Khaled Al Faleh will lead the September 22 meeting. The kingdom holds the rotating presidency of the G20 this year.