News from the third IRENA Assembly, Abu Dhabi

Amy Cutter, Editor of Outreach

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is leading a global initiative on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) to mobilise action from all sectors of society in support of three interlinked objectives to be achieved by 2030:

1. Ensure universal access to modern energy services;

2. Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and

3. Double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Speaking on the final day of the third IRENA Assembly in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Robert F. Ichord, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources, U.S. Department of State, described the momentum and support that has gathered for the initiative since its inception in September 2011.

As a result of this momentum, in September last year Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a high-level meeting on SE4ALL in New York, and – together with Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank – expressed support for a new phase to implement the aspirational goals.

In this context, IRENA has launched REMAP 2030, a global roadmap to identify the policies and actions required to double the share of renewable energy (to 30%) by 2030. The launch, which took place yesterday at the third IRENA Assembly, marks the start of a process which will invite experts and policy makers from across the globe to assess the challenges and opportunities in meeting that goal, taking into account the interactions between renewable energy and the other two SE4ALL objectives. IRENA’s initial analysis suggests that increasing the share of renewable energy to 30% is achievable.

Speaking at a thematic presentation yesterday afternoon, IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin presented some of the preliminary findings of the REMAP 2030 project, which indicate that, if progress continues at the current pace, renewable energy will account for 21% of the global energy mix in 2030, leaving a gap of 9%. This presents a significant challenge that requires action at all levels and in different sectors, and Mr Amin invited governments to show their support by nominating national experts to take part.

Dr Ichord said that IRENA was well positioned as a renewables hub for multilateral action and cooperation and is already playing a key role in the implementation of SE4ALL through activities on policy and enabling environments, technology and knowledge development, financing and innovation models, and outreach and partnership.

In response to the presentations, India raised concerns about IRENA’s involvement with the SE4ALL initiative, which was not agreed by consensus at Rio+20. In particular, the Indian delegation highlighted that Rio+20 had given clear primacy to access to energy and they therefore had issue with the focus on the goal to double the share of renewables in the global energy mix. To close their statement India reiterated that agreements made at the Rio+20 Summit should not be renegotiated in other forums.

Seemingly pre-empting the comments from India – which had previously been raised in the morning’s ministerial roundtables and at last year’s high-level meeting on SE4ALL – in his presentation Mr Amin emphasised that IRENA’s involvement was based on the distinction that the initiative provides a collaborative platform to facilitate cooperation between different constituencies, rather than giving directives or binding goals.

He continued to say that IRENA would still be conducting research into ways to increase the global share of renewables were SE4ALL not to exist, but that the initiative provides an organising framework for stakeholders that the Agency can utilise to advance their mission.

In contrast to India, Germany voiced their commitment to the goals of SE4ALL and said that IRENA’s involvement was appropriate given their unique positioning and as SE4ALL was not a negotiated outcome of Rio+20 but a Secretary-General initiative. They stated their support of REMAP 2030 and their intention to contribute to the work with both data and experts.