14 July 2020| Articles
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) held its first IRENA Legislators Dialogue, bringing together parliamentarians from around the world to discuss the merits of a renewables-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic. By improving energy access, renewable energy can play an important role as an enabler of services. The Dialogue, on 13 July 2020, discussed this and how enabling a social inclusion approach can strengthen communities’ living standards and development in the next decade.
With parliamentarians playing a crucial role in shaping energy and environmental policy worldwide, the Legislators Dialogue series of discussions supports IRENA’s commitment to be a facilitator of knowledge sharing between Members of Parliament (MPs).
The Dialogue was moderated by Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, MP in Sierra Leone and a former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, and opened by IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera together with Douka Sediko, ECOWAS Commissioner for Energy and Mines.
In his early remarks at the meeting, Dr. Yumkella set the tone by outlining the centrality of a low-carbon energy system to the achievement of development goals: “Before COVID-19 we already knew that energy transitions were important whether to deal with climate change or human development,” he said. “The slogan today is to build back better for greater resilience and that cannot happen without clean energy sources.”
The importance of renewable energy in achieving many of the sustainable development goals was a recurrent theme throughout the discussion. MPs underscored the unique characteristics that make renewable energy the most effective option in providing rural communities with reliable and affordable energy.
Participants highlighted that rapidly deployable renewable energy solutions, such as off-grid solar, can be utilised quickly to enable healthcare, education and clean cooking in developing countries. Furthermore, in developed and developing countries alike, a renewables-based recovery can result in significant job growth and can re-stimulate the global economy after being impacted by COVID-19.
“As governments design measures to address the post pandemic recovery, they need to ensure resilience of economies and societies which results in stable long-term livelihoods,” said Director-General Francesco La Camera. Speaking to MPs, he continued: “As parliamentarians, you can play a central role in the adoption of stimulus and recovery packages that prioritise sustainable energy. Your political leadership and initiative are needed now more than ever.”
Douka Sediko, ECOWAS Commissioner for Energy and Mines, took the opportunity to announce their partnership with IRENA to develop a future Legislators Dialogue for West-African Parliamentarians, aimed at supporting the accelerated deployment of renewables and emphasing renewable energy’s role as an enabler of services in the region. “The pandemic has complicated our efforts to achieve the regional targets of the region’s renewable energy strategies, demonstrating the need to build regional partnerships, attract capital and investments in the ECOWAS region and develop policies and enabling frameworks,” Sediko said.
“The ECOWAS commission therefore welcomes the initiative to organise a Legislators Dialogue with members of the ECOWAS parliament and other relevant stakeholders. The Commission will give the necessary support for the successful organisation of the dialogue,” the Commissioner added.
Issues around the lack of available capital were also addressed, highlighting the need for enabling frameworks that can attract the capital needed to fund bankable projects in developing countries. MPs were unanimous in their support for IRENA’s initiative to promote knowledge sharing and cooperation through its Legislators Dialogue series and agreed to IRENA’s proposal to develop a more regional approach in future legislator dialogues.