Dr Fatih Birol
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced the creation of a high-level global commission, headed by Danish PM Mette Frederiksen, to investigate how to ensure that people are placed at the heart of the unfolding global clean-energy transition.
Speaking during a virtual briefing on Monday, IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol said the other members of the commission would be named in due course and that its recommendations would be released ahead of the delayed twenty-sixth United Nations climate change conference, or COP26 climate negotiations, scheduled for Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
The commission was one of four special projects unveiled by the IEA as part of its ambition to play a leadership role in shaping the policy debate on how to both accelerate the clean-energy transition and to make it both secure and people-centred.
The other four special projects announced by Birol included:
- The publication of a special report, in May, titled ‘The World’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050’;
- The joint hosting, in March, of a second ‘Clean Energy Transitions Summit’. The event will be hosted jointly with the UK government, which holds the COP26 presidency;
- The joint publication, with the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, of a special report on the financing of the energy transition in developing economies. The report would be released in May; and
- The publication of a special report, in April, on the role of critical minerals in the clean energy transition.
Birol said that the emission gains made in 2020 had little to do with decisive policy interventions and had been driven by the economic decline associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, he said that significant net-zero commitments had been made during the year and that he was confident that more countries would make similar pledges, including the US after President-elect Joe Biden was officially inaugurated on January 20.
Nevertheless, there were growing concerns that some people could be left behind by the transition and the high-level commission would, thus, consider ways of ensuring that it was as “fair and inclusive as possible”.
In South Africa, which is at the start of its own transition from coal to renewable energy, there is likewise concern about the potential negative effects on workers, small businesses and communities linked to the coal value chain.
In response, Eskom had established a just energy transition office to investigate the possibility of repowering or repurposing coal stations that would be decommissioned over the coming two decades, to support those who could be negatively affected by their closure.
In December, President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed members of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission, which would be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the transition towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.