IEA Affirms its Special Responsibility in Helping to Combat Climate Change

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has been deeply engaged in the climate issue for a long time and believes it has a special responsibility in helping the UNFCCC process, since the bulk of man-made greenhouse gases originate from energy use and production. “Stabilising carbon dioxide concentration levels will be a formidable challenge in a world with growing energy needs, but we think solutions exist and can be further developed,” said Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the IEA. “There is one thing of which we are certain however: climate change mitigation will require profound changes in energy production and use worldwide.”

The IEA helps by providing statistics on CO2 emissions, information and analysis to fuel the debate on climate change. It develops forecasts and scenarios, to show what will happen if nothing is done, and also what would be the likely results of alternative paths if action were taken. A new IEA publication Energy to 2050: Scenarios for a Sustainable Future sets out the options.

Using energy more efficiently is the most obvious “win-win” strategy that allows reduced emissions along with lower energy costs and lower energy investments. The recently-published World Energy Investment Outlook presents an “Alternative Policy” scenario that posits stronger mitigation policies and new policies designed to curb emissions and reduce electricity consumption in OECD countries. The conclusion is that improvements in energy efficiency and greater production from renewable sources significantly slow the growth of CO2 emissions.

Energy technologies already exist that can substantially reduce emissions, but more will be needed. The IEA helps by encouraging international collaboration on the development and dissemination of new, cleaner technologies through the 42 Implementing Agreements it hosts. These deal with renewable energy technologies, clean coal, carbon dioxide capture and storage, hydrogen, fusion energy and efficient end-use energy technologies. Countries share R&D tasks and exchange information on their potential best practices and breakthroughs. The IEA’s 26 energy ministers recently extended participation in these agreements to industry and developing countries.

The IEA also bring new ideas to the table: ideas and analyses on the most cost-effective ways to organise international efforts to mitigate climate change. It provides analytical inputs for the negotiators, in particular through the so-called Annex I Expert Group and more broadly to all stakeholders, from businesses to NGO’s. The IEA analyses energy efficiency and technology policies, policies and measures, market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading and project-based mechanisms.

This is the IEA’s role with respect to climate change: to link the environmental, energy security and economic development issues that are all equally essential to achieving sustainability.