Fateful International Energy Agency Meeting Could Set Course For Climate Friendly COVID-19 Recovery… Or Not
Wind turbines in Derbyshire, United Kingdom, generate energy.

A landmark meeting hosted next week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) will bring together major powers to debate the key actions for a climate-friendly COVID-19 recovery in an online forum open to public viewing. 

The IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit will be live-streamed July 9th, and bring together the world’s largest economies and developing countries, who generate 80% of global emissions. The meeting aims to develop plans to ramp up emissions-reducing projects to rapidly create new jobs in the wake of economic devastation wrought by the pandemic. 

Currently, major powers in attendance such as Germany, China and Indonesia already have recovery plans in the work that claim to center climate-friendly initiatives.

In a move counter to the administration’s usual dismissive stance on climate, the United States will also be sending a representative to a high-level virtual summit on a ‘green’ COVID-19 recovery on 9 July.

US Secretary of State for Energy, Dan Brouillette, will attend a meeting, according to the Guardian

“What kind of energy choices we make now will determine the decades to come,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told the Guardian in an interview. “This will be critical for energy and climate change.”

Emissions have gone down dramatically as travel and trade came to a standstill during COVID-19 induced lockdowns, with clear waters in Venice canals and blue skies over New Delhi for the first time in ages. Emissions of noxious greenhouse gases such as NO2, monitored by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency, have decreased in major cities around the world. 

But there is increasing worry that economic recovery efforts will cause a catastrophic rebound in emissions if there lacks a concerted effort to center climate-friendly initiatives.

Participation of Climate Dismissive Governments Key to Success

A global ‘green’ recovery can only succeed if countries dismissive of climate change – such as the United States – also sign on to the recovery plans.

“Even if governments do not take climate change as a key priority, they should still implement our sustainable recovery plan just to create jobs and to give economic growth. Renovating buildings, for instance, is a job machine,” Birol told the Guardian.

So far the US administration has been silent regarding a ‘climate-friendly’ pandemic recovery economy, even as UN agencies, the European Union, and individual countries like Norway and Germany endorse green recovery plans.

The US is set to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark deal meant to curb emissions to limit the rise of global temperatures, right before US presidential elections on 4 November, highlighting the importance of getting the major emitter on board for recovery plans now, said Birol. 

China’s energy minister, Zhang Jianhua, the EU commission’s vice-president, Frans Timmermans, and the UK’s business secretary, Alok Sharma, who is president of the 26th UN Conference of Parties climate talks (now postponed to next year), will be attending. Representatives from Indonesia, India, Brazil, and South Africa will also be in attendance.

Image Credits: Flickr: The Roaming Picture Taker.