IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit: First Step Toward Bridging Gap Between Ambition and Action?

Technology innovation, job creation, inclusive and equitable recoveries, and sustainable electricity headline discussions at high-level summit.


Ministers from countries representing over 80% of the global economy joined CEOs, top investors, heads of regional development banks, and the Secretary General of the United Nations on 20 July in what has been praised as a first step in creating a coalition to bridge the gap between climate ambition and real-world energy action. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) first Clean Energy Transitions Summit was convened to discuss how to achieve a definitive peak in global carbon dioxide emissions and put the world on course for a sustainable and resilient recovery.

The summit represented the culmination of efforts that began in March when IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol called for putting clean energy at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery. The call was followed by a comprehensive series of “damage assessments” to determine how the crisis is impacting all fuels and technologies, and to identify actionable recommendations for economic recovery plans. Participants in the summit drew upon three IEA documents and market reports across various fuels that resulted from the assessments.

  • The Global Energy Review in April provided the first comprehensive COVID-19 impact assessment across all fuels along with emission trends, finding a historic drop in both global energy demand and carbon emissions.
  • The World Energy Investment Report in May warned of a 20% plunge in global energy investment in 2020, with implications for clean energy transitions and security.
  • The Sustainable Recovery Plan sets out 30 actionable policy recommendations and targeted investments.

The Sustainable Recovery Plan, developed in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, would boost global economic growth by 1.1% per year, save or create 9 million jobs per year, and avoid a rebound in emissions and put them in structural decline. According to the plan, 35% of new jobs could be created through energy efficiency measures and another 25% in power systems, particularly in wind, solar

and modernizing and strengthening electricity grids. Achieving these results would require global investment of $1 trillion annually over the next 3 years.

Several high-level panel discussions included the following.

  • Accelerating clean energy technology innovation—how to scale critical emerging technologies such as batteries; hydrogen; carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS); and bioenergy.
  • Inclusive and equitable recovery—putting people, including the most vulnerable, at the center of recovery plans and fully harnessing diverse talents, backgrounds, and perspectives. Discussion underscored the need to protect workers in the short term and to develop skills necessary for sustainable, resilient energy systems of the future. Participants also reinforced the importance of having a clear understanding of how to advance inclusive growth and track progress and held up the Equal by 30 campaign to advance gender equality as a valuable model.

Noting the crucial role of electricity in clean energy transitions, participants underscored the historic opportunity to modernize and improve the sustainability, reliability and security of electricity systems with a diverse generation mix and higher flexibility to integrate larger shares of variable renewables.
Participants agreed to reconvene again in mid-2021 at a second IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit.

For more on the summit, click here: