IEA chief defends Net-Zero report amidst pushback

THE head of the International Energy Agency has defended the findings of its report after several member countries and industry bodies criticised its claim that no new coal, oil or gas projects were needed in a world that reaches net-zero emissions by 2050.
IEA chief defends Net-Zero report amidst pushback IEA chief defends Net-Zero report amidst pushback IEA chief defends Net-Zero report amidst pushback IEA chief defends Net-Zero report amidst pushback IEA chief defends Net-Zero report amidst pushback

IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol

Mark Tilly

Journalist

Mark Tilly

The IEA's Net-Zero scenario released last week envisages no new coal oil or gas developments and at the same time sees a historic surge in clean energy investment driven by strong and credible policy actions from government and the private sector. 

The shockwaves from last week's report continue to ripple outward, with G7 environment ministers agreeing over the weekend to stop directly funding coal-fired power stations in poorer nations by the end of 2021 - reportedly having been heavily influenced by the IEA's latest findings. 

However the report has also drawn scepticism from industry groups and member nations heavily reliant upon coal, oil and gas for energy export and consumption. 

"It's a fact that there are sections the Japanese government does not agree with," Japanese economy, trade and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama told The Financial Times

Australia's peak oil and gas body, APPEA, said the report described just one scenario to reach net-zero and should be "taken with a grain of salt". 

Writing on Linkedin over the weekend, the IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol said the reactions to its Net-Zero scenario released last week were similar to those in 2009 when it released its Sustainable Development Scenario. 

"I find myself getting flashbacks to 2009. A major new IEA scenario. A strong call to transform our energy systems. Plaudits from some corners, criticism from others," he wrote. 

"It is important to understand that our work isn't a binding prescription. 

"Our Net Zero Roadmap is designed to illuminate the essential debates on energy and climate in societies around the world and inform policy makers so they understand the implications of their actions - and of their inaction." 

Birol argued that right now there was a gap between the ambitious rhetoric and actual policy action from governments meaning any global pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 has become even more challenging. 

"Some real achievements have been made - the fantastic growth of clean energy technologies like solar, wind and electric cars - are in large part thanks to strong policy efforts by governments," he wrote. 

"But at the same time, emissions have kept rising as fossil fuels have continued to dominate an expanding global energy system. The response has not been commensurate with the scale of the challenge."

Historically an organisation that has heavily backed fossil fuel technologies, the IEA has been undergoing a transition of its own in recent years as it shifts its focus to clean techs in recognition of the crucial role that energy must play in cutting emissions.