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IEA Chief Warns: Just Six Months Left for Green Recovery to Change Course on Climate

"This year is the last time we have."

Shanghai Donghai Bridge's 100mw offshore wind power project is China's first national offshore wind power demonstration project in the early morning light of morning in Shanghai, Oct. 4, 2019. (Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

The world must take advantage of the opportunity presented by the coronavirus economic shutdown and focus on a green recovery, the head of the International Energy Agency said Thursday, because the window to deal with the ongoing climate crisis is closing.

"This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound," IEA executive director Fatih Birol told the Guardian

A report published Thursday by the IEA detailing the group's prescription for a Sustainable Recovery Plan calls on policymakers to consider that they are "having to make enormously consequential decisions in a very short space of time" as the world economy recovers from the pandemic.

"These decisions will shape economic and energy infrastructure for decades to come and will almost certainly determine whether the world has a chance of meeting its long-term energy and climate goals," the group added.

The global organization's proposal calls for creating jobs in the green energy sector, investing in electric vehicles and high speed rail, transitioning to a wind- and solar-centric energy grid, more energy efficient buildings, and more. Birol stressed the urgency of the moment in ensuring a better future for the planet and humanity that leaves fossil fuels behind. 

"The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond," said Birol.

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IEA's plan was met with support from leaders in European countries. 

"We agree with the IEA that the world is to remain vigilant so that emissions do not pick up as the economy bounces back to normal," Teresa Ribera, Spain's vice-president for the ecological transition, said, adding that the plan "shows that it is possible for the world to turn 2019 into the definitive peak in global emissions."

Danish climate minister Dan Jorgensen said the proposal "clearly shows that economic recovery and job creation go hand in hand with the green energy transition."

"The IEA's 'sustainable recovery plan' shows us the way forward," said Jorgensen.

Climate advocacy group Oil Change International senior research analyst Kelly Trout panned the IEA proposal, calling it insufficient in a moment where bigger ideas than simply sustainable recovery are needed. 

"The IEA again misses the mark where it matters the most, completely ignoring the link between sustainable recovery and staying within 1.5°C of warming," said Trout. "Nowhere in the report is there mention of the critical 1.5-degree warming limit, let alone analysis of what’s needed for a recovery plan to be fully aligned with it."

"The IEA is running out of chances to prove it is fit for purpose in a time of climate emergency," Trout added.

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