The International Energy Agency (or IEA for short) advises governments on energy policy, and IEA boss Dr. Fatih Birol calls for governments to invest heavily in renewable energy when they rebuild their economies after COVID-19. Sounds great, right?
The trouble is, at the exact same time, the IEA is continuing to provide cover for Big Oil and Gas. Some of the things they say sound exactly like industry talking points, not the independent expert advice governments and investors need now. Don’t take our word for it, see if you can tell them apart!
At the same time as International Energy Agency chief Dr. Fatih Birol promotes clean energy, he also props up Big Oil and Gas. For example, just last week, he said “We need oil today, we will need oil tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”. Even though that’s strictly true in a very literal sense (no one’s suggesting we stop using all oil in three days!), on a deeper level this reflects the IEA’s constant underestimation of clean energy growth and overestimation of oil, gas and coal demand.
In 2016, our report The Sky’s Limit showed that reserves in currently operating oil and gas fields alone, even with no coal, would take the world beyond 1.5°C warming. This means that we need a managed decline in fossil fuel production. That is, governments around the world need to plan to keep known, owned oil and gas reserves in the ground, cut both fossil fuel production and consumption in line with the ambition of the Paris Agreement, and plan for a just transition for the working people and communities who depend on fossil fuels for their livelihoods.
In the face of this stark reality, it’s past time for the IEA to upgrade its own climate toolbox.