The IEA is Risking Climate Disaster by Pushing for More Carbon Burning

November 6th, 2019 - by Oil Change International

The IEA is Risking Climate Disaster by Pushing for More Carbon Burning

Oil Change International

 (November 5, 2019) — Next week the International Energy Agency (IEA) will release its annual World Energy Outlook. Let’s make sure it doesn’t sabotage efforts to act on climate.The IEA is about to release its annual flagship World Energy Outlook, a report that guides billions of investment dollars and countless political energy decisions.

But here’s the problem: Analysis done by the IEA is used by politicians and fossil fuel companies to justify massive new oil and gas projects that will only make the climate crisis worse. In short, the IEA is providing cover for the fossil fuel industry as it seeks to trash the planet.

Previous versions of the report have been dangerously out of step with what the science says is necessary to address climate change, which is why we’re working hard to make sure future versions are better.

The little-known but highly influential International Energy Agency (IEA) is providing cover for the fossil fuel industry’s expansion plans. But it gets worse. Not only is the IEA captured by Big Oil and Gas, it is also making it harder for countries to take serious climate action.

The IEA’s most widely read analysis is sabotaging climate action. This needs to stop. The WEO is cited by nearly every major oil company when they need to prove to their investors, governments or the public that the world needs more fossil fuels. But that’s simply not true. In the midst of this ongoing climate emergency, more fossil fuels are the LAST thing the world needs. 

The IEA is an intergovernmental organization. Its members are countries — mostly wealthy countries from the Global North — and it is supposed to be accountable to its membership. But, instead of helping countries figure out a path to keep warming to 1.5˚C, the IEA is upholding the status quo and giving fossil fuel companies the cover they need to keep exploring for new oil and gas.

The IEA’s so-called Sustainable Development Scenario is sometimes held up as being climate friendly, but it is filled with risky assumptions about future technologies and would allow for billions of dollars in new, near-term investment into fossil fuels. We need the IEA to create a 1.5˚C scenario and place it front and center in the next WEO. After all, that’s the aim of the Paris Climate Agreement, which the governments overseeing the IEA have all signed.

ACTION: Tell the IEA that it needs to develop an ambitious and transparent 1.5˚C scenario — and it needs to make that the focus of the World Energy Outlook. Add your name to call on the IEA’s Executive Director, Fatih Birol, to align the IEA’s reports with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.


To: IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and IEA Governing Board Members:

All IEA member governments have signed the Paris Agreement which strives to limit warming to 1.5˚C. Yet the IEA’s ‘authoritative’ World Energy Outlook, used as a guidepost for energy decisions all over the world, does not present a pathway to achieving this goal. By focusing on business-as-usual and omitting a robust pathway to 1.5˚C, the IEA is providing cover for dangerous investment in fossil fuels and steering the world towards climate breakdown.

The IEA must stop squandering its influence and sabotaging climate action. 

The IEA needs to develop an energy scenario that shows the world how we can limit warming to 1.5˚C and to put it front and center in the World Energy Outlook. Making excuses for more fossil fuels like gas, or punting the costs and risks of reducing pollution to our kids doesn’t cut it. We do not have time to waste. Organizations like the IEA must lead or get out of the way.

Thanks for all of your efforts,

Hannah McKinnon, Energy Transitions and Futures and Oil Change International