Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

11 January 2020

Secretary-General's message to the Tenth Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

I am pleased to greet the International Renewable Energy Agency. 
 
Your Assembly opens a pivotal year in the fight against climate change and for large-scale energy transition, continuing the momentum from the Climate Action Summit I convened in New York last September.
 
The impacts of climate change are upon us, faster than had been predicted. We know what we must do to limit global warming to no more than 1.50 C by 2100 – bring down carbon dioxide emissions globally by about 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.  
 
Renewable energy will play a central role in getting us on this path. 
 
Renewables are the fastest growing energy source, and least expensive for producing electricity in most parts of the world. In each of the last four years, more renewable capacity was installed than fossil fuel and nuclear combined. This trend is very encouraging.
 
However, there are still many barriers to entry that prevent renewable energy from becoming the automatic choice to power our highest emitting sectors. Battery storage is still not sufficient for wind and solar to operate at their optimum capacity.  Fossil fuel subsidies still create an unfair playing field.
 
I urge all leaders to push their governments to make new investments in innovation, and to boldly phase out subsidies and replace them with tax incentives for renewable scale-up.
 
I also count on all countries to design and implement just transition plans to ensure that the move to renewables is smooth, economically sound and benefits the most vulnerable communities.
 
Finally, I urge the IRENA Assembly to continue to push for renewable energy scale-up in all sectors.
 
The upcoming UN Transport Conference in May of this year is an important opportunity for energy leaders to announce new commitments. In many countries, emissions from the transport sector are outpacing those from the power sector, and transport is becoming the highest emitting industry.   
 
 
The year ahead also includes the Sustainable Energy for All Forum and COP26 in Glasgow – further opportunities to advance renewable energy and unlock all barriers.
 
IRENA’s global leadership is critical.  I welcome the growing partnership between the United Nations and IRENA, including through the strengthened UN-Energy.
 
I am pleased to see some governments and investors backing away from coal and fossil fuels, and other important steps by cities, civil society and other partners.  But we must redouble our efforts to mobilize political will, international cooperation and financing.
 
I count on IRENA’s leadership and wish you a productive Assembly.