6 July 2021
IRENA Forum Explores Role of Energy Transition in Achieving 1.5°C Goal
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The first edition of the Global High-Level Forum on Energy Transition focused on the theme, ‘Science and Raising Ambition towards COP 26’.

IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook 2021, launched during the event, has served as the basis for a report on energy transition to the High-level Dialogue on Energy.

The inaugural meeting of the Global High-Level Forum on Energy Transition, convened by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), discussed ambitious actions required to accelerate a green, just, and inclusive energy transition, supported by science. The event launched IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook 2021, which presents technology, investment, and policy options to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and to bring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050.

The Forum, established by the IRENA Assembly at its 11th session, is a multi-stakeholder platform where governments, intergovernmental entities, academia, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and others can engage to promote international cooperation and collective action to, among other actions:

  • lead the global discourse on energy transition;
  • promote common initiatives to accelerate energy transition worldwide;
  • share experiences and follow up on global events such as the High-level Dialogue on Energy (HLDE) and the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP 26); and
  • guide future research and analysis to promote solutions for a sustainable energy system.

The Forum’s first edition, held virtually on 30 June 2021, focused on the theme, ‘Science and Raising Ambition towards COP 26.’

Teresa Ribera, President of IRENA Assembly 11th session, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, Spain, opened the event, highlighting the urgency of achieving the 1.5°C temperature goal and bringing CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050 while ensuring job creation. She underscored the need to accelerate energy transition in support of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on climate change for the benefit and prosperity of all.

Francesco La Camera, Director-General, IRENA, launched IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook 2021. Stressing the need to act on climate change and ensure transition to a more resilient and equitable world, he said electrification and energy efficiency, enabled by renewables, green hydrogen, and sustainable biomass, are the main drivers of decarbonization. Among the elements that guide the Outlook’s theory of change, La Camera highlighted the need to:

  • pursue the path that is most likely to drive down energy emissions in the coming decade;
  • support emerging technologies most likely to become competitive in the short term;
  • limit investment in oil and gas; and
  • phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies.

Acknowledging that energy transition will require USD 131 trillion in investments – USD 30 trillion more than current plans envisage, he estimated savings at between USD 2 and 5.5 for every dollar spent.

La Camera called for a comprehensive policy framework that considers people, prosperity, and climate to enable a just and inclusive transition in line with the 1.5°C pathway that will deliver, among other benefits, a 2.5% boost to global gross domestic product (GDP) and a four-fold increase in renewable energy (RE) jobs to 43 million in 2050.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UNFCCC, commended the Outlook for providing a nuanced vision that aligns with the Paris Agreement, seizes the possibility of reaching 1.5°C, and brings emissions closer to net zero by 2050. She called for:

  • comprehensive transformation of the energy sector that is balanced against the need to protect the social and economic needs of those most impacted by such transitions;
  • accelerated deployment of renewables; and
  • rapid increase of investments in clean energy and green energy infrastructure, aligned with a net-zero pathway.

Espinosa lamented the fact that only a few countries include quantitative targets for the share of renewables in the energy mix in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). She said governments must boost their climate ambition and be accountable for meeting their pledges, including financial ones.

Hoesung Lee, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), welcomed the Outlook’s recommendations, which, he noted, are aligned with the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15). Warning that “in the transition menu, you can’t pick and choose,” he called for an escalation in the pace and scale of transitions in energy, land use, transport, built environment, and industrial systems, in line with countries’ capacities, national circumstances, and cultural and institutional conditions.

Melinda Crane, Chief Political Correspondent, Deutsche Welle TV, moderated a panel discussion, inviting perspectives on concrete actions to accelerate energy transitions in countries and regions while leaving no one behind.

Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy, EU, said the EU is currently reviewing all its legislation to ensure it is aligned with the targets reflected in the European Green Deal, including climate neutrality by 2050. She noted that as one of the largest climate finance providers, the EU will continue to work to accelerate the transition from coal to renewables while leaving no one behind.

Gjergji Simaku, Vice-President of IRENA Assembly 11th session, and Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Albania, said 100% of Albania’s electricity is produced by hydropower, described how an auction helps increase the share of renewables in the energy mix, and outlined efforts to decarbonize the transport sector.

Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Vice-President of IRENA Assembly 11th session, and Minister of Energy, Ghana, reported that African countries have been working on national sustainable energy roadmaps to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. He said Ghana is on track to meet its RE and energy efficiency targets reflected in its NDC, and is working to implement its national RE “masterplan.”

Indu Shekhar Chaturvedi, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India, delivered remarks on behalf of Raj Kumar Singh, Vice-President of IRENA Assembly 11th session, and Minister of New and Renewable Energy, India. Chaturvedi said India is the only major economy whose actions are in compliance with a 2°C scenario, with RE increasing 2.5 times and solar increasing 16 times in the last six years. He outlined efforts to provide decentralized RE solutions in the agriculture sector, a solar rooftop programme, an energy efficiency programme, and a government initiative to create demand for green hydrogen.

Andrea Meza, Vice-President of IRENA Assembly 11th session, and Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, called for accelerated action and resources to support policymaking and implementation to promote RE at regional and national level. She identified the need for practical advice on concrete measures to address equity components in sectors affected by energy transition.

 Conrod Hunte, Permanent Representative to IRENA, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and Antigua and Barbuda, drew attention to the challenge of balancing economic growth, environmental initiatives, and social considerations, and stressed the need for flexibility and partnerships.

Arifin Tasrif, Group of 20 (G20) 2022 Presidency, and Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources, Indonesia, outlined Indonesia’s policy strategies to ensure a just, systemic, and inclusive energy transition, including the massive development of RE capacities, reduced utilization of fossil energy sources, and phasing out of coal power plants. He emphasized national circumstances and capabilities and the benefits of support and cooperation.

Manlio Di Stefano, G20 2021 Presidency, and Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Italy, welcomed the Outlook’s whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach as inseparable from ensuring socioeconomic benefits in the transition to 1.5°C. He said Italy has allocated almost EUR 70 billion to efforts to support green transition, decarbonization, and climate neutrality by 2050. Di Stefano emphasized that transition must be inclusive and fair, and plan for the adaptation of workers’ skills. He said the first G20 Climate and Energy Joint Ministerial in July will provide an opportunity to accelerate clean energy transition while fostering sustainable economic recovery for the benefit of present and future generations.

Abdullah bin Mohammed Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, United Arab Emirates (UAE), pointed to the need to identify the most optimal solutions for each player to “get energy transition off the ground.” He highlighted UAE’s energy transition efforts, such as:

  • the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company Masdar in 2006;
  • clean energy capacity on track to reach 14 GW by 2030;
  • over USD 40 billion invested in clean energy projects locally; and
  • the launch of the Abu Dhabi Hydrogen Alliance.

He further outlined UAE’s support to developing countries, including a solar PV complex in Togo and clean energy projects in Pacific and Caribbean island states.

Thorsten Herdan, G7 2022 Presidency, and Director-General, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Germany, presented on Germany’s updated carbon neutrality goal, with 2045 as the target year. He indicated that as a net energy importer, Germany would like to import more RE.

Panelists then exchanged perspectives on collaboration and partnerships, including through the IRENA membership and cooperation with other countries. Several called for the Outlook to provide more granular, region- and country-specific findings. Prempeh stressed the need to balance energy transition in Africa against African countries’ development priorities.

In closing, Ribera highlighted that additional efforts need to take into consideration countries’ different experiences, circumstances, priorities, and contexts, as well as country- and region-specific opportunities,  where regional approaches and cooperation among governments and local stakeholders can help. She underscored the need to strengthen capacity, mobilize public and private finance, and facilitate technology access, while bearing in mind environmental and social aspects of energy transition.

La Camera said the IRENA Secretariat will present to COP 26 and the next IRENA Assembly a programme to “granulate” the Outlook’s findings. He indicated that the Outlook has served as the basis for a report on energy transition to the HLDE.

The event closed with a “fireside chat,” hosted by Becky Anderson, CNN, where Ribera and La Camera elaborated on, inter alia:

  • socioeconomic consequences of energy transition, including benefits, and the importance of leaving no one behind;
  • the need to ensure respect, dignity, and recognition for those who have been providing services in sectors affected by energy transition such as coal;
  • the need to facilitate investment;
  • the need for social acceptance of and commitment to energy transition;
  • geopolitical aspects of the RE revolution;
  • competitiveness of green hydrogen; and
  • creating conditions for Africa’s inclusive and fair energy transition to help it leapfrog into the new energy system.

La Camera summarized the report’s main message as “working together in all regions with all countries to make the Outlook become reality.” [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [IRENA Landing Page for Event]

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