Sustainable recovery could create jobs, boost economies and cut emissions – IEA

A sustainable recovery from the global pandemic could create millions of jobs, boost economies and put carbon emissions into “structural decline”, experts have said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has set out a global recovery plan with measures ranging from making homes more energy efficient and speeding up new wind and solar installations to putting in more cycle lanes in cities.

The moves could shift the world’s energy systems to a cleaner and more resilient future, the IEA said.

An analysis carried out in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests the policies and investments from 2021-2023 in its plan would boost economic growth and save or create nine million jobs a year.

It would also cut annual greenhouse gases from energy by 4.5 billion tonnes by the end of the plan, stopping pollution rebounding as the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and instead locking in structural declines in emissions.

Creating new cycle lanes could help boost jobs and cut emissions (Ian West/PA)
Creating new cycle lanes is among measures in the International Energy Agency’s global recovery plan (Ian West/PA)

Measures such as boosting electric cars and trucks, cycling and walking will also cut air pollution and improve health, while investing in electricity grids would make them more secure and better able to withstand severe weather.

It would require public and private investment of one trillion US dollars (£800 billion) a year – or around 0.7% of the world’s economic output (GDP), the IEA said.

The agency’s sustainable recovery plan includes more than 30 measures across the electricity sector, transport, industry, buildings, fuels and emerging low-carbon technologies.

One of the most significant ways to create jobs is by investing in retrofitting buildings with insulation and other measures to make them more energy efficient.

Existing energy efficiency programmes can be expanded and new projects can be shovel ready within weeks or months, while investment targeting social housing or government buildings can help kickstart the sector.

It also delivers long-lasting benefits by making homes cosier and cheaper to heat, cutting people’s bills, reducing poverty and improving health.

Building cycle lanes and expanding pedestrian walkways could create more than half a million local jobs globally in construction over the immediate to near term, and a cycling boom could help create 10 million jobs in manufacturing and retail sectors.

A shift to cycling and walking can also improve health, reduce air pollution and increase local shopping activities, the IEA said.

The IEA plan also sets out measures to modernise electricity grids, expand high-speed rail networks, invest in hydrogen and battery technology and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

The sustainable recovery plan comes as governments look to reboot their economies after the pandemic saw countries locked down and huge falls in demand for energy.

The IEA said three million jobs had been lost or were at risk in the energy industry because of Covid-19, and another three million in related areas such as buildings, vehicles and industry.

Lockdowns have also led to large – but potentially temporary – falls in carbon emissions which need to decline dramatically over the coming years to prevent dangerous climate change.

Dr Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said: “Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”

He said the recovery plan gave them clear advice on how to tackle the major economic, energy and climate challenges at the same time, and while it was not intended to tell governments what they must do, it sought to tell them what they can do.

“This report lays out the data and analysis showing that a cleaner, fairer and more secure energy future is within our reach.

“The sustainable recovery plan would make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions, putting them on a path towards achieving long-term climate goals,” he said.

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