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Stronger international cooperation crucial to get on track for 1.5°C climate goal

Stronger international cooperation crucial to get on track for 1.5°C climate goal
Countries must supercharge international collaboration on technologies and markets for sectors such as power, transport, industry, buildings, and agriculture, a new joint IEA, IRENA, and UN Climate Change High-Level Champions report finds (image courtesy IRENA).

Insufficient progress in transitions to clean technologies and sustainable solutions over the past year highlights the need for strong and targeted international collaboration in high-emissions sectors to deliver transitions that are faster, easier, and cheaper for all, according to the latest Breakthrough Agenda Report.

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The new Breakthrough Agenda report – an annual collaboration between the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champions – shows that current efforts on clean energy and sustainable solutions, while improving, are not yet delivering the levels of investment and deployment required to meet international climate goals.

The energy transition is moving quicker than many people think, but it needs to move faster still. Our analysis shows that while some sectors are seeing stronger international collaboration, others are falling behind, said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency.

In response, it calls on governments to strengthen collaboration in key areas – such as standards and regulation, financial and technical assistance, and market creation – to turbocharge the transition.

Released on the eve of Climate Week NYC, the report examines the advances made and actions needed to meet the goals of the Breakthrough Agenda, a commitment signed by 48 countries representing close to 80 percent of global economic output since it was first launched at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, and which announced a partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) COP28 Presidency in January 2023.

The Breakthrough Agenda has made significant progress since its inception last year, but much more is needed. This report demonstrates that international action can lead to accelerated implementation of climate solutions. We now need to see more determined collective efforts to create demand for clean technologies, mobilize investment, and align international trade with the just transition. The acceleration in the global low carbon and just transition must be connected with inclusive development pathways through ensuring linkages with and contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, said Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP27.

Expanded scope

The annual process aims to align actions by countries to make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable, accessible, and attractive option in each of the five key sectors: power, road transport, steel, hydrogen, and agriculture.

The scope of coverage has been expanded in this year’s edition of the report to also cover buildings and cement.

Collectively, these seven sectors account for more than 60 percent of global GHG emissions, while the focus of the Agriculture Breakthrough also addresses issues around climate adaptation, nature, and food security.

The second annual report assesses progress made since 2022 in priority areas for international collaboration and sets out a series of recommendations for countries to work together in each sector to help reduce emissions over the next decade and stave off the worst effects of climate change.

The report shows how the transition to clean energy and sustainable solutions is accelerating across many sectors, with unprecedented expansion in technologies such as electric vehicles and solar PV.

It highlights that electric passenger cars are set to account for 18 percent of total car sales in 2023, while investment in clean energy technologies is significantly outpacing spending on fossil fuels.

But other high emissions and hard-to-abate sectors such as steel, hydrogen, and agriculture are not transitioning quickly enough despite encouraging progress in some areas.

Renewables made up nearly half of global power generation in 2022, marking a milestone in the energy transition. However, IRENA has always highlighted an urgent need: renewable power additions must triple by 2030 to maintain a 1.5°C target. We must urgently overcome the systemic barriers across infrastructure, policy, and institutional capabilities. And we must realign the way in which international cooperation works. A well-targeted international cooperation can determine whether we meet our collective promise to secure a climate-safe existence for current and future generations, said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA.

Coordinated actions to mobilize investment

The report’s recommendations span financial assistance, research and development, demand-creation, infrastructure, standards, and trade, to accelerate the transition in each sector.

Coordinated actions in each of the seven sectors will help mobilize investment and can create the economies of scale required to bring down the price of crucial technologies and sustainable agriculture solutions.

The report found that in the past year, only modest progress has been made in strengthening international collaboration in the areas where it is most needed. Progress has been made in expanding financial assistance to developing countries in some sectors, and in joint research and development initiatives.

But much more progress is needed in aligning policies to create demand for clean technologies, and in establishing dialogue on trade in sectors where this is likely to be critical to the transition. In most sectors, participation in the leading initiatives for practical cooperation still falls short of a majority of the global market.

No country can tackle the climate and energy challenges we face in isolation. Working together is the only way we can deliver a smooth transition for everyone. Building on innovation, attracting investment, and scaling up demand for new technologies are the fundamental building blocks for success. By delaying further, we are simply increasing the risks, said Dr Fatih Birol.

Greater political commitment needed

The report argues that greater political commitment is needed to progress from softer forms of collaboration, such as sharing best practices, to harder forms such as alignment of standards and policies, which are more difficult but can yield greater gains in mobilizing investment and accelerating deployment.

The Breakthrough Agenda report provides an independent assessment of the progress achieved in accelerating global climate action. Making clean and sustainable technologies the most affordable, accessible, and attractive option in all regions by 2030 is vital for a regenerative and nature-positive economy. It is clear that without international cooperation that includes civil society, businesses, and local actors as well as national governments, the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C cannot be achieved, said Her Excellency Ms Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28.

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