IRENA Members Address the Geopolitical Challenges of Energy Transformation

“It is abundantly clear we need to understand the geopolitical implications of the energy transition, so that we can proactively shape its outcomes,” remarked IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera at the opening of the sixth meeting of the Collaborative Framework on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation.

The virtual meeting was attended by nearly 40 participants from Members and States in Accession to discuss the intersection of geopolitics and energy transformation set against a backdrop of the global energy crisis.

For the past two years, Germany and the UAE co-led the work of the Collaborative Framework, advancing important initiatives including a deep-dive on the geopolitics of hydrogen. In their remarks, the outgoing Co-facilitators noted the importance of greater understanding of geopolitics and stressed that IRENA, with its global membership, is well positioned to shed light on shifting trends. Incoming Co-facilitators, Namibia (represented by James Mnyupe, Presidential Economic Advisor for the Republic of Namibia) and Norway (represented by Hans Olav Ibrekk, Special Envoy for Climate and Security for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), are taking over at a critical moment characterised by heightened geopolitical uncertainties and new opportunities to accelerate energy transition.

Participants at the meeting emphasised the need for policy-makers to have insights into geopolitical trends and developments, as set out in the 2019 Global Commission report, A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation. Members exchanged views on additional nuances that have since emerged, and asked the Secretariat to consider them in analytical work under development. “We see the emergence and amplification of new and long-standing geopolitical challenges around fossil fuel price volatility and energy security,” Mr. Ibrekk remarked.

Another set of challenges among policy-makers concerns the rapidly growing demand for critical materials for the energy transition, as well as the ways this trend is already shaping the geopolitical landscape. In response to growing interest from Members in how to meet these challenges, the Secretariat shared plans for a deeper analysis of related geopolitical implications. This work leverages activities of the Collaborative Framework on Critical Materials for the Energy Transformation which, in a short time, Mr. Mnyupe remarked, had “provided a wealth of essential insights about the challenges and opportunities associated with scaling up critical materials to meet the growing demands of an accelerating energy transition.”

“Inherent in the nature of global supply chains are questions around geopolitical cooperation and competition,” Mr. La Camera said. “The role that critical materials play in the energy transition will also present an opportunity to avoid mistakes of the past in extractive industries.”

Closing the meeting, and reflecting on the complex challenges discussed, Mr. Ibrekk stressed that a fact-based debate was now more important than ever, and IRENA’s function as a knowledge hub would ensure its membership and other stakeholders are well prepared for the uncertainties of geopolitics and the energy transformation.