Coronavirus Stimulus Plans Are An Opportunity for Bold Climate Action, Expert Says

Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Governments and financial institutions should incorporate climate change action into their COVID-19 economic recovery plans, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, told Climate Home News. Stimulus packages, he argues, should focus on large-scale investments in things like clean energy, battery storage, and carbon capture-and-storage technologies.

“I am talking with several governments and international financial institution leaders because they are all busy designing stimulus programs for the economy,” Birol said in an interview. “We can use the current situation to step up our ambition to tackle climate change… This is a huge opportunity we cannot miss. Here the issue is not only the level of [stimulus] money, but the direction of the money.”

Birol’s argument comes amid news that the coronavirus has forced the cancellation or postponement of several major climate, scientific, and environmental meetings. Policy experts warn that many countries, particularly developing nations, may not have enough time to produce tougher climate targets ahead of international climate talks in Glasgow in November. In addition, the Trump administration is considering bailout packages for the fossil fuel and aviation industries, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“This is a historic opportunity for the world to, on one hand, create packages to recover the economy, but on the other hand, to reduce dirty investments and accelerate the energy transition,” Birol said.