Climate Action

Fatih Birol, IEA, on the investment needed to create clean jobs and keep on the pathway to net-zero

Ahead of the Climate Innovation Virtual Forum 2020 on Wednesday 1 July, we caught up with Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, to discuss the investment needed to create clean jobs whilst keeping on the pathway to net-zero.

  • 29 June 2020
  • Rachel Cooper

Ahead of the Climate Innovation Virtual Forum 2020 on Wednesday 1 July, we caught up with Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, to discuss the investment needed to create clean jobs whilst keeping on the pathway to net-zero.

Q. Why do you think the Green Recovery is essential as we look to BuildBackBetter?

The disruption caused by Covid-19 has sent shock waves through energy markets and global energy investment is expected to shrink by an unparalleled 20% in 2020. Energy has not featured prominently in the Covid-19 recovery packages proposed to date.

Policy makers are taking very consequential decisions, while trying to simultaneously to push economic growth, create new jobs, and build a more secure and sustainable energy system.

Our IEA latest analysis shows that a Sustainable Recovery Plan, would boost the economy by 1% a year, create or save 9 million jobs a year and would make 2019 the definitive peak in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Q. What industries/technologies/projects offer the best opportunities to create clean jobs whilst keeping us on a pathway to net-zero?

The newly built IEA employment database shows that buildings retrofits, installing new solar, and modernising grids can create many jobs quickly and have the market appetite to see a rapid rise in investment in the near-term.

Investment in enhancing and digitalising electricity grids, upgrading hydropower facilities, extending the lifetime of nuclear power and increasing energy efficiency would also improve electricity security by lowering the risk of outages, boosting flexibility, reducing losses and helping integrate larger shares of variable renewables such as wind and solar PV.

Investment in innovative low-carbon technoloiges, such as hydrogen and batteries, could provide an important runway to ramp up employment and capacity in technologies that will be essential for a more resilent and secure energy sector. 

Q. Where should public and private sector investment shift towards to ensure we grow low-carbon industries and avoid future lock-ins?

The IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan requires 1 trillion investment over three years (2021-2023). Government policies have an essential part to play in facilitating the deployment of private capital through regulations, market frameworks and tax reforms.

Within IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan, direct government investment focusses mainly on areas where private investment is difficult to mobilise or where the levels of private investment seem likely to fall short of what is needed.

Overall we find that private investment would account for 70% of overall investment needs in the plan. This share is smaller in some developing economies, where state-owned enterprises tend to play a bigger role in overall energy spending than in advanced economies, especially in electricity generation and networks. International finance institutions, multilateral development banks, and bilateral donors will all have an important role to play in underpinning the deployment of clean energy measures in many developing economies.


Fatih Birol will be speaking at the Climate Innovation Virtual Forum 2020 on Wednesday 1 July to discuss how the UK can use the net-zero emission target as a pathway for economic recovery post pandemic. Join him and other industry leading experts by registering for free today.