Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

The International Energy Agency (IEA), together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), proposed a sustainable recovery plan to world governments. There will be no better time to move the economy into a green direction, experts say. Representatives of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union,  who’ve launched an initiative to collect proposals for a green recovery from the crisis, agree with them.​

Since the signs of the economic crisis began to manifest, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has repeatedly called on governments to make the recovery as sustainable and green as possible. That is, to emerge from the global recession through cleaner and safer energy systems. In recent months, energy economists have also joined in searching a way to recover from the pandemic.

A remarkable tandem, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have released the  Sustainable Recovery Plan. As the developers of the document say, they are driven by the “sense of urgency of the moment”.  “Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies: they can turn 2020 into a year, when the world starts to win both climate change and coronavirus,” says Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency.

The Sustainable Recovery Plan offers governments a three-year roadmap in the energy sector to stimulate economic growth, create millions of jobs and reduce global emissions. The energy policy transformation in response to the economic shock caused by the Covid-19 crisis should accelerate the introduction of modern, reliable and clean energy technologies and infrastructure changes, the plan says.

“Together with the IMF, we have reviewed all possible energy strategies and focus on those that will meet three objectives: stimulate economic growth, create jobs and avoid a recovery in greenhouse gas emissions. And we put forward three proposals: first, to improve energy efficiency, especially in the construction sector; second, to promote the use of renewable energy sources; and third, to modernise and digitize electricity networks," explains Fatih Birol.

The Sustainable Recovery Plan is based on detailed assessments of more than 30 specific energy policy measures in three categories: electricity (including renewable energy), expansion and strengthening of electricity networks, development of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport, and a separate category for “new technologies,” such as energy storage systems and hydrogen. The measures in the plan will require a global investment of $1 trillion. One third of the funding is expected to come from governments and the rest from private sources.

According to the IEA and IMF Plan, global economic growth would be, on average, 1.1 per cent per year higher than without green recovery measures. At the same time, about 9 million jobs will be created and retained annually, and by the end of 2023, emissions will be 4.5 Gt lower than at present. Implementation of the plan will also contribute to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals: improving air quality by 5%; providing access to clean energy for 420 million people and electricity for 270 million.

The global energy sector will also become more resilient, which will make countries more prepared for future crises. If the Plan is implemented, 2019 will be the last peak in global emissions, enabling the global community to meet long-term climate targets and the Paris Agreement.

In their document, the IEA and IMF highlight key aspects of the current situation that make it unique: “Compared to 2009, we have at least three main advantages. First, the cost of clean energy technology is now much lower. Secondly, this year’s emission reduction is very steep. And thirdly, many governments around the world are taking environmental climate issues much more seriously today than they were a decade ago. So we hope that governments will pass the test this time,” says Fatih Birol.

“Even if we forget about the climate and environment, the implementation of the strategy presented by the IEA and IMF creates jobs and helps to lift the economy," write the developers of Sustainable Recover. 

During the IEA Ministerial Summit in early July, leaders from four-fifths of the world’s energy consumption were invited to discuss ways to accelerate the clean energy transition and a recovery plan. According to experts, Europe has already developed a very strong incentive package for renewable energy. Canada and Japan have also taken steps in this direction.