Executive Director Speech at Leaders Summit on Climate

The following is a transcript of the remarks that IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol delivered at the Leaders Summit on Climate, convened by US President Joe Biden, on 22-23 April 2021.

Distinguished guests,

I would like to commend President Biden for convening this Summit within 100 days of taking office. And I welcome the commitments to reduce emissions announced by so many countries.

It is clear that the level of commitment to fight climate change has never been higher. This is excellent news.

But I will be blunt: commitments alone are not enough. We need real change in the real world.

Right now, the data does not match the rhetoric – and the gap is getting wider.

Our latest estimates for CO2 emissions in 2021 are a warning for humanity. Emissions are on track for their second-largest increase in history.

We are not recovering from Covid in a sustainable way, and we remain on a path of dangerous levels of global warming.

Yet there are grounds for optimism.

Electricity generated from renewables will break records this year. And sales of electric cars will reach another record high.

But getting to net-zero emissions requires much more than that — we will need to transform our entire energy system.

This means drastically cutting emissions from trucks, ships and planes.

We will also need to do the same for steel and cement factories, chemical plants and in farming.

We have many technologies at our disposal today – energy efficiency, solar, wind, electric cars, nuclear power, and many more – and we need to deploy these as quickly as possible.

However, IEA analysis shows that about half the reductions to get to net zero emissions in 2050 will need to come from technologies that are not yet ready for market.

This calls for massive leaps in innovation. Innovation across batteries, hydrogen, synthetic fuels, carbon capture and many other technologies.

On 18 May, the International Energy Agency will release a roadmap for how the global energy sector can reach net zero by 2050.

Make no mistake – this is a herculean task.

Participants to this Summit have used the occasion to make new announcements.

Let me add one from the IEA.

According to our upcoming Roadmap, reaching net-zero will triple clean energy investment opportunities over the next decade.

This will generate millions of well-paid jobs and create the industries of the future.

But, our priority is to make sure these benefits reach as many people as possible.

We need to work together to achieve our goals and create a better future for all of us.

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