The Covid-19 pandemic is having a major impact on energy systems around the world, curbing investments and threatening to slow the expansion of key clean energy technologies.
Before the crisis, progress on clean energy technologies had been promising, but uneven. The IEA’s annual Tracking Clean Energy Progressreport shows that only 6 out of 46 technologies and sectors were “on track” to meet long-term sustainability goals in 2019. Those six included electric vehicles, rail transport, and lighting. Another 24 showed some progress, but not enough to meet long-term goals, while the remaining 16 were woefully “off track.”
Global carbon emissions will fall this year as a result of the major disruptions to travel, trade and economic activity brought about by the pandemic. But that’s no reason to celebrate, since it comes on the back of an international health crisis and widespread economic trauma. What happens next is crucial for our energy future. Achieving a robust economic recovery without the same kind of rebound in emissions that followed the 2008 global financial crisis will require governments to take the lead in pursuing structural reductions in emissions through smart, sustained and ambitious policies to accelerate the development and deployment of a full range of clean energy solutions.
Looking at all the data so far on how the Covid-19 crisis is impacting clean energy transitions, 10 key themes emerge – and this article examines each of them. (We will continue to review additional data as it becomes available and provide a major update in the autumn that will more comprehensively analyse all relevant data from the first half of 2020.)
But the IEA is not only providing timely data and identifying emerging trends, we are also developing real-world solutions. The IEA has been at the forefront of calling on policy makers to make sure that the once-in-a-generation stimulus packages they will be drawing up to revive their economies also drive stronger development and deployment of clean energy technologies. To help guide these difficult decisions that are likely to shape countries’ infrastructure for decades, we will soon be releasing the World Energy Outlook Special Report on Sustainable Recovery, which will provide clear recommendations on how governments can put energy and sustainability issues at the heart of stimulus plans to create jobs and build more modern, resilient and clean energy systems. Recognising the critical importance of innovation to clean energy progress, we will publish in early July an Energy Technology Perspectives Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation, which will analyse the early-stage technologies where investment today can do the most to reshape the future.
The IEA has made clear that tackling the world’s climate challenge and accelerating clean energy transitions calls for a grand coalitionencompassing everyone who is genuinely committed to reducing emissions. This coalition needs to span governments, industry, investors and civil society to share innovative ideas and best practices, and inspire one another with greater ambition. To this end, the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit on 9 July will help governments identify the best approaches for creating jobs, putting emissions into structural decline and increasing energy sector resilience.
One report or summit alone will not bring about the sustained acceleration in clean energy progress that is needed to put the world on a sustainable path. Achieving a definitive peak in carbon emissions and the scaling up of a full range of clean energy technologies will require timely data; actionable analysis; and ambitious, real-world solutions from governments, companies and consumers – day in and day out – for years to come. The IEA remains committed to doing our part to help shape a secure and sustainable energy future for all.
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