On Monday 16 May the Executive Director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency, Dr Fatih Birol, addressed Peers for the Planet Supporters in the House of Lords. Speaking about the current energy crisis and how efforts to reach net zero could both ease it and provide a degree of security against future ones, he emphasised that addressing both the energy and climate crises were symbiotic and that we could not afford to ignore one in pursuit of the other.
During his speech Dr Birol stated that, if the right incentives are put in place to address the current crisis, we could see innovation that will help us transition to net zero - just as the oil crisis in the 1970s led to increased innovation and efficiency. The difference today from the 70s, however, is that we have exciting clean energy alternatives that can operate at scale and we also have clear commitments made by countries under the Paris Agreement. In this context he said that it would be “heart-breaking” to use the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an excuse for a new wave of fossil fuel infrastructure and that, if this transpires, achieving our net zero goals will be undermined. Dr Birol reiterated the IEA’s previous message that there must be no new investments in new fossil fuel sources if the world is to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.
Dr Birol warned that the world must not be blind to the threat of coal and that, even though new coal phaseout was agreed at COP26 last year, existing infrastructure - particularly in Asia where the average coal power plant still has nearly 30 years of life expectancy left - posed a challenge for developed nations and further incentives for its rapid phaseout would be required.
Dr Birol highlighted new IEA analysis indicating that, in 2022, fossil fuel organisations are expected to make $2 trillion in extra profits compared to 2021, two-and-a-half times the last five year average. He said "If the global oil and gas industry were to invest this additional income in low emissions fuels, such as hydrogen and biofuels, it would fund all of the investment needed in these fuels for the remainder of this decade in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario"
After taking questions for the audience many Peers went on to debate these issues as part of the Queen's Speech debate on the economy, energy and the environment, which also took place that afternoon.
You can see more of Dr Birol's remarks in a post he published here