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Global leaders get real about net zero goals at IEA Summit

Top international energy and climate leaders from more than 40 countries took part in the IEA-COP26 Net Zero Summit to identify how to work together to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Summit, co-hosted by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and COP26 President Alok Sharma, brought together representatives of countries covering more than 80% of global GDP, population and emissions, and focused on how to promote, achieve and exploit international collaboration, ensuring no country is left behind in the green recovery.

Attendees included civil society groups, private companies, government institutions and high-level representatives of energy and climate ministries from countries including Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom and many others.

COP26 President Alok Sharma stated: “It is by working together that we can innovate faster, create economies of scale and drive economic incentives… Without adequate finance, the task ahead is nigh impossible. Rapid structural change is needed across borders at all levels. Enhancing international collaboration is a key goal of the COP presidency”.

Sharma emphasised that it is time for the world to move from a decade of deliberation to a decade of delivery, keeping in mind that the transition from coal must be fair and ensuring clean power is always the most attractive option.

Summit speakers welcomed the US back into the fold, with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry opening the ministerial discussion. Said Kerry: “This is not politics or ideology, this is a reality that the scientists have for years been telling us, Mother Earth is screaming at us through feedback loops saying get this done. We have to do a lot more, this is the greatest economic opportunity we have ever had.”

Ministers agreed that the entire planet’s way of doing business will change, a sentiment echoed by newly-appointed head of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Ngozi stated at the Summit: “New trade rules are needed to green the planet, environmentally friendly goods and services must be available and trade will play a key role to foster innovation and avail investment”. Ngozi also emphasized the need for WTO members to converge on their climate action policies and use border tax adjustments to lower carbon footprints.

Seven key principles

During the Summit, the IEA presented Seven Key Principles to guide the implementation of net zero commitments. The principles cover essential areas such as the need for sustainable recoveries from the COVID-19 crisis, and also address issues such as technology collaboration, best-practice sharing, investment tracking, ensuring people-centred transitions, and integrating energy security and affordability into net zero plans.

  1. Sustainable recoveries can provide a once-in-a-generation down payment toward net
  2. Clear, ambitious and implementable net-zero-aligned roadmaps to 2030 and beyond
    are critical
  3. Transitions will go faster when learning is shared
  4. Net zero sectors and innovation are essential to achieve global net zero
  5. Mobilising, tracking and benchmarking public and private investment can be the fuel to
    achieve net zero
  6. People-centred transitions are morally required and politically necessary
  7. Net zero energy systems also need to be sustainable, secure, affordable and resilient

Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, said: “Our Net Zero Summit made clear that the vast majority of the world agrees on the gravity of the climate crisis and the urgency of immediate actions to put global emissions on track towards net zero. No country can do this alone. If we want the transition to clean energy to happen quickly, the world’s major economies have to work much more effectively and closely together. The Summit’s Key Principles show what needs to happen, and I offer the IEA’s full support for the UK COP26 Presidency’s efforts to strengthen the international cooperation mechanisms that will accelerate our transition to net zero.”

To support stronger government actions, the IEA on 18 May will publish the first comprehensive roadmap for the global energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The roadmap will set out a pathway for what is needed from governments, companies, investors and citizens to put global emissions on a path in line with a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees.