Varadkar to lead global group trying to solve massive energy efficiency problem

10 Jul 2019

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD speaking at Inspirefest 2019. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Leo Varadkar has been named the chair of a high-level global commission to find ways of pushing through energy efficiency policies faster.

Ireland has been given a leading role in a new group that will attempt to find ways of pushing through energy efficiency policies faster, following on from its hosting of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Global Conference on Energy Efficiency last month.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD has been named honorary chair of the high-level global commission with the Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, TD to chair the commission’s ongoing work.

The members include current and former ministers for energy and environment from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Morocco, New Zealand and Spain. Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, the African Union commissioner for energy and infrastructure; and Dr Wan Gang, the previous Chinese minister of science and technology described as the ‘father of electric vehicles ’in China, have also agreed to take part.

The commission will also include major figures from the world of business including Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, and Lisa Davis, chief executive of gas and power at Siemens.

What could be achieved

The IEA has calculated that, with some key policies in place developed by the commission, the global economy could double in size by 2040 but broadly maintain the same amount of energy use seen today. This, it added, would allow for more than 40pc of the emissions cuts needed to reach international climate goals using existing technologies.

It warned, however, that policy implementation has slowed with efficiency progress weakening – seen with a CO2 emissions increase reaching record levels in 2018. If viable energy efficiency potential was available today, the IEA said, consumers around the world could save more than $500bn in lower energy bills by 2040.

“It is imperative that we get global energy efficiency progress back on track,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “I’m delighted that [An Taoiseach] Varadkar and other eminent figures from around the world have agreed to commit their energy and ideas to this vital project.”

Criticism back home

Back home, the Government faces pressure from opposition and environmental campaigners over its decision to effectively block the Climate Emergency Measures Bill.

The bill has been left in limbo as the Government did not issue a ‘money message’ – signed by An Taoiseach – which would allow public money be spent on the piece of legislation.

Following the decision, Bríd Smith, TD of People Before Profit said the refusal showed “the utter hypocrisy of the Government on climate and renders null and void any other measure in the Climate Action Plan”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic