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Brian Motherway
Head of Energy Efficiency, International Energy Agency (IEA)

The October 2018 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on  Climate Change (IPCC) underlined the urgent need for effective action to mitigate climate  change. The report will undoubtedly be a key topic of discussion at COP 24, where delegates will have an opportunity to consider what immediate options are available to address the global climate challenge.

Energy efficiency provides a ready answer to this challenge. Combined with renewable energy and other measures, energy efficiency can deliver the lion’s share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions needed to avert catastrophic climate change. Efficiency alone can act like an ‘emergency break’ on rising GHG emissions, delivering an early emissions peak before 2020 and contributing around 40% of the abatement required by 2040 in line with the Paris agreement.

Energy Efficiency 2018, the latest in this market report series published by the IEA, details these and other findings as part of the most comprehensive analysis of energy efficiency trends, indicators and outlooks ever produced by the agency. The report includes a special Efficient World Scenario, which examines the global potential of efficiency by addressing the question: what would happen if policy makers realised all the economically viable potential for energy efficiency between now and 2040?

The scenario is more than an economic model or analytical tool; it provides the basis for an Efficient World Strategy. At the core of this strategy is an evidence base that demonstrates how efficiency can deliver tremendous benefits for the climate, public health, productivity, and much more. Crucially, all the policy levers required to realise the benefits of efficiency have been or are currently implemented in some form. They include minimum performance standards for appliances, fuel economy standards for vehicles, building codes, market-based      instruments, incentive schemes to encourage efficiency actions, and information and capacity building measures to improve market readiness to deliver.

A quantum leap in policy or technology innovation is not required to start realising the benefits of energy efficiency. What is required is a commitment from policy makers to step up global action and collaboration on energy efficiency. In addition, a major investment push is needed, whereby global investments in energy efficiency double between now and 2025, and double again between 2025 and 2040. Please refer to the article in this magazine co-authored by my colleagues Joe Ritchie and Armin Mayer, which explores these and other elements of the Efficiency World Strategy in more detail.

In addition to the analytical work conducted as part of Energy Efficiency 2018 and other publications, the IEA is actively promoting global information exchange, capacity building and dialogue on efficiency. In our experience, policy makers are keen to move beyond the ‘why’ to the ‘how’ of efficiency. They understand the benefits of using energy in a more rational way, but they may not have all the information and tools at their disposal to design and implement effective policies. How far-reaching and stringent, for example, should codes and standards be? How best to ensure implementation and compliance with building codes? How to incentivise industries to become more efficient?

To help answer these and many other questions, we have built an online global exchange for energy efficiency that contains a wealth of data, insights and analysis across key sectors, with information for around 100 countries – both developed and emerging economies. Training weeks organised as part of the IEA’s Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies (E4) programme, meanwhile, serve to increase capacity for policy makers in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and beyond. Launched in 2015, these events have brought together over 1 000 efficiency professionals from more than 90 countries, primarily from government institutions and their supporting organisations in emerging economies. Our capacity building efforts also extend to countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia as part of the EU4Energy Programme, while Eastern European countries are consistently included in our work as part of our analysis of energy efficiency in Europe.

A further important part of our efforts is leveraging the convening power of the IEA to organise high-level conversations on efficiency. Our third annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency, which took place in Paris on 25 and 26 October, brought together ministers, CEOs, dignitaries and efficiency experts from across the globe to share insights on digitalisation, financing, the role of cities, economic growth, and much more.

Ultimately, energy efficiency is an essential tool for mitigating GHGs immediately and cost effectively. It can contribute to economic and social well-being, while promoting environmental sustainability. Realising the full benefits of efficiency requires collaboration, information exchange and action from all levels of government, industry and, importantly, individuals. At the IEA, we are determined to use all the means and resources at our disposal to enable energy efficiency to deliver its full potential.

Brian MOTHERWAY, Head of Energy Efficiency, International Energy Agency (IEA)