A thermal power plant in Golemo Selo, Bulgaria. Credit: Victor Kiryanov
Influential agency urged by almost 70 leaders across business, finance, civil society, policy and research to give 1.5C scenario a more prominent focus in upcoming special report.
Dozens of business leaders, climate advocates, investors, and researchers have urged the International Energy Agency (IEA) to align its energy system projections with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C scenario ahead of an upcoming report that is set to guide governments’ coronavirus recovery efforts.
In an open letter published today, leaders from Ikea and Unilever, the C40 alliance of mayors, key architect of the Paris Agreement Christiana Figueres, and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson have called on the influential agency to update its energy modelling before it publishes a seminal report on Covid-19 recovery.
The IEA’s flagship World Energy Outlook series of reports has long steered major investment decisions made by governments, companies, and investors around the globe, and its upcoming special report “could be the most influential ever”, according to the signatories to the letter.
The analysis, due to be published on 18 June, is expected to include recommendations to governments on how to stimulate economies and revive a moribund energy investment climate following the pandemic while also generating jobs and building a more resilient and cleaner energy sector.
Today’s letter, which was coordinated by campaign group Mission2020, calls on IEA director Fatih Birol to ensure an energy scenario that shows how quickly emissions must fall to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C is “central” to the report. The required scenario involves halving global emissions by 2030, they stressed, in line with the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations.
“In light of the IEA’s considerable impact on global energy decision-making, the tools you provide will shape countless investments and decisions that may either lock in a high carbon future to devastating effect or, conversely, accelerate the transition to a resilient clean energy economy,” the signatories wrote. “The stakes are high and we look forward to you rising to the challenge of guiding robust recovery pathways aligned with 1.5C.”
The letter argues that giving a robust 1.5C scenario a prominent place in the report could help ensure the decisions governments make over the coming weeks meaningfully address three converging crises: the collapse in global oil prices, the escalating climate emergency, and the economic paralysis and health impacts inflicted by Covid-19.
The leaders also urge the IEA to take a “continued precautionary approach” towards negative emissions technologies, which are still expensive and yet to be deployed at scale. It instead urges the IEA to promote nature-based solutions to deliver emissions reductions.
“Effective stimulus measures will ensure that new clean energy replaces fossil fuels, rather than adding to them,” the letter argues. “They will map out a pathway for a just transition to a net-zero emissions economy, with tremendous potential for job creation at scale. Bold, not incremental, action is required to transform energy systems at the scale and pace required. Global leaders have shown themselves willing and able to take such bold action, but they need the right tools, which this summer’s special edition of the WEO as well as the forthcoming annual WEO can provide.”
The signatories thanked IEA director Birol for his recent calls for clean energy to be at the heart of global stimulus plans, as well as his advocacy for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. But they urged him to explicitly promote a managed phase-down of fossil fuel production, a rapid end of direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies, and increased investment into clean energy technologies in the forthcoming report.
Today’s missive was dispatched in the same week as the IEA reported that global energy investment was set to slump by £400bn due to the coronavirus, and just one month after the agency’s Global Energy Review predicted that a record slump in electricity demand caused by the pandemic would deliver an unprecedented blow to the fossil fuel industry.
It also comes six months after Mission2020 sent a letter to the agency warning that, despite some improvements to the 2019 edition of the report, the agency’s most recent modelling still fell short on delivering the emissions reduction that is needed to limit warming by 1.5C by 2050 and avoiding “unpreceded human catastrophes”.
In that letter, sent in November, the group warned that World Energy Outlook series’ mainstream scenario would lead to “at least” 2.7C of warming, while the ‘sustainable development scenario’ could cap warming at 1.8C by 2070, two decades after the science-informed deadline of mid-century.