Production and use of energy is responsible for about two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions (1). Without low carbon energy solutions we cannot hope to address the issue of climate change successfully. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has been working tirelessly to produce analyses and promote awareness of energy issues that are vital to both the Paris agreement and to the post Paris world.
The agency has been busy at COP21 meeting with parties and hosting numerous side events; last Thursday (12/3/15) in the blue zone at Le Bourget was IEA Day, where energy experts were involved in panel discussions on a range of topics from energy efficiency to the resilience of the energy system. Today (12/10/15) the IEA hosted “The Big Energy Debate” in the civil society area of the venue. The first topic of debate was “Development with much lower emissions: what would it look like?” The discussion moved through many topics, but the most interesting part concerned Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CCS is a topic that I haven’t yet decided my views on, so it was thought provoking to hear those of experts in the field. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the debate was from Stephan Singer, the director of Global Energy Policy at WWF International, who referred to CCS as putting lipstick on a zombie. Singer was alone in his complete opposition to CCS though, many of the panelists were either uncertain about the technology or see it as necessary to achieving our temperature goals (but know it will still be some time before the technology is feasible at a larger scale and at a lower cost).
The Executive Director of the IEA, Fatih Birol, opened the Big Energy debate and I was lucky enough to be able to speak with him for a few minutes afterwords. The following answers are not direct quotes from Dr. Birol.
KS: What do you see the role of young researchers and the young generation being in the global collaborative effort towards clean energy solutions after Paris?
FB: The only way to make things move is through public pressure. We need to make the governments move in the right direction. The role of youth is to be involved in the debate and push the government in that right direction.
KS: What is your perspective on how the Paris agreement will bring developed and developing countries together to address the challenges of sustainable development?
FB: In the past few years I have seen the agreement becoming narrower. For the first time developed and developing countries are contributing (both are submitting mitigation contributions in the form of INDCs) and the gap between them is becoming narrower.
KS: How will the energy transformation impact our everyday lives?
FB: There are 3 ways. The first is it will make use feel better because we are no longer dirtying our world. The second is it will be good for our health because there will be less air pollution. The third is that there will be less extreme weather events.
If you’re interested in the IEA and what they have been doing at COP21 visit their website where you can find lots of information and download some great publications.
- “Energy Matters. How COP21 Can Shift the Energy Sector onto a Low-Carbon Path That Supports Economic Growth and Energy Access” (OECD/IEA, 2015), www.iea.org.