22nd Jun 2020
Last week, leading energy expert and Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Dr Fatih Birol, issued a serious warning: to avoid a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions and avert climate crisis, we only have six months in which to do it.
Birol’s warning comes as the IEA on Thursday released their Sustainable Recovery Plan, a new report designed to provide governments with a roadmap to achieving sustainable economic growth in the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. The plan aims to accelerate the deployment of modern, reliable and clean energy technologies and infrastructure, creating millions of jobs in the process and putting global emissions into structural decline.
The report is a welcome call to action amongst the many experts, economists, health professionals, educators, climate campaigners and politicians that have been calling for a green recovery to address struggling global economies. Those that have been following our own CEO, Don McLean’s recent blog series, will know that he too has strongly advocated for a concerted global effort by governments to invest in decarbonisation over the coming months and years, resulting in the double benefit of protecting the planet from extreme climate change while stimulating economic recovery.
The IEA calculates that governments plan to spend $9tn (£7.2tn) globally in the next few months on rescuing their economies from the coronavirus crisis. They believe the stimulus packages created this year will determine the shape of the global economy for the next three years and within that time emissions must start to fall sharply and permanently, or climate targets will be out of reach.
“Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”
Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director
The IEA envisage that the largest portion of new jobs created through the Sustainable Recovery Plan would be in retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency. This is unsurprising given that buildings account for more than 30% of global energy use and 30% of energy-related CO2 emissions today. Focusing investment in this area, they estimate, would result in the creation of 1.9 million new jobs in a year and would be supported by other high employment opportunity sectors such as wind and solar power, energy efficiency in industries such as manufacturing, food and textiles, low-carbon transport infrastructure, and more efficient and new energy vehicles. Investing to make improvements in these areas means that governments could boost global economic growth by an average of 1.1 percentage points a year, save or create roughly 9 million jobs in a year in total, and reduce annual global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 4.5 billion tonnes by the end of the plan. All while improving human health and well-being and gaining a stronger position from which to withstand natural disasters, severe weather and other potential threats.
On the topic of buildings efficiency specifically, the IEA report states that: “Government investment in accelerating energy efficiency in buildings would bring long-lasting benefits: it would reduce energy bills for consumers, reduce energy poverty, improve health and comfort, and improve resilience in the face of climate events and price shocks.”
This view is supported by Sam Fankhauser, executive director of the Grantham Research Institute on climate change at the London School of Economics, who also stated that: “Building efficiency ticks all the recovery boxes – shovel-ready, employment intensive, a high economic multiplier, and is absolutely key for zero carbon [as it is] a hard-to-treat sector, and has big social benefits, in the form of lower fuel bills.”
The IEA have made clear that we now have very little time to change the course of climate change. And while the scale of the task is almost incomprehensible, we can – with adequate investment, tools and technology – still turn the tide.
Having spent more than a quarter of a century working tirelessly to deliver technology to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and cities, we at IES know that we have the technology and the know-how to help turn sustainable action plans into reality.