Avatar photo

By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

‘Geopolitical tension’ a major threat to climate action – IEA chief

The IEA urges global unity against climate change amidst geopolitical tensions.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said Monday that nations need to set aside “geopolitical tensions” and fight for greater international cooperation in order to advance the struggle against climate change.

“The 1.5C target” agreed in Paris in 2015 is “still within reach” but it faces “many challenges” the energy watchdog’s boss Fatih Birol told an international climate and energy gathering in Madrid ahead of COP28.

Among the challenges, “the geopolitical fragmentation of the world” was “creating a key impediment for some of the steps we are hoping to take”, he told the gathering of some 40 ministers and top global energy and environment leaders.

Although levels of investment in “the technology area and in clean energy technologies” were “very strong”, it is not enough, he said.

ALSO READ: Climate change wake-up call: More extreme weather coming to SA

“The lack of international cooperation is a major, major problem. We have to find a way to isolate these geopolitical tensions … to focus on this issue of countries coming together,” he said.

The world’s energy future will be at the heart of debates at the UN’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai, a major oil producer, between November 30 and December 12.

Spain’s Ecology Minister Teresa Ribera admitted that talks at COP28 were likely to be “challenging” but said “multilateralism is the way to respond to the current challenges”.

“A global problem deserves a global response,” she told delegates.

Race against time

Global tensions have mounted in recent years notably due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing rivalry between the United States and China, hiking fears the climate crisis will be pushed down the geopolitical agenda.

The crunch Dubai talks should enable the international community to make progress on the reduction of greenhouse gases and the clean energy transition.

It will also be a chance to take stock of national commitments to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 2C and if possible to 1.5C compared with pre-industrial levels — a difficult task in light of current conditions.

ALSO READ: Climate change ‘a major threat’ to the tourism sector

“The green transition process must pick up speed, we’re in a race against time to tackle climate change,” Ribera told a press conference, while adding there is “room for optimism” about COP28.

The IEA says several conditions must be met for the Dubai conference to be considered a success.

Key issues will be a tripling of investment in renewables and a funding mechanism for clean energy in developing countries.

In November 2022, the COP27 summit hosted by Egypt wrapped up with a landmark deal on funding to help vulnerable countries but it made no progress on phasing out fossil fuels, which the IEA sees as urgent.

“July and August” have been “perhaps the hottest in history, and it looks like 2023 will be the hottest year ever,” Birol said with heatwaves, floods and wildfires soaring on all continents.

ALSO READ: SA must tackle energy crisis and climate change together – Ramaphosa

Read more on these topics

climate change global warming Russia Ukraine

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits