‘Me-first’ national interests risking global green transition, energy leaders warn

11th May 2023

National interests and the risk of a technology arms race are the greatest barriers to orderly, clean, and just green transitions, a poll of more than 700 energy leaders suggests.

The annual survey by the World Energy Council (WEC) found that 46% believe a “me-first” sentiment among nations is the biggest obstacle to green transitions, with 84% warning that energy interdependence is the “new global reality”.

Furthermore, 64% of respondents are now concerned by the pace and progress of transitions, which is nearly double those who expressed similar concerns last year.

To avoid disorderly transitions and address new and emerging challenges, 86% of energy leaders agreed that using the WEC’s World Energy Trilemma framework is the best approach.

CEO, Dr Angela Wilkinson, said that the world energy system is “no longer fit for purpose”, adding: “Throwing more money and technology at complex system change is not enough to ensure faster or fairer energy transitions.

“Inclusive implementation is essential – mobilising, enabling and convening more people, diverse communities and different industries, and understanding place-based realities. Addressing this complex challenge requires a humbler leadership approach and active learning.”

The survey found that leaders are particularly concerned that insufficient action is being driven from the bottom up, with 35% of respondents stating that individuals and communities should be empowered to lead transformations.

Challenges around “affordability and modern energy access” are the most concerning aspects of ensuring a fair energy system, cited by 43% of energy leaders. Aligning the financial system with the SDGs is recognised as the greatest “critical implementation gap” for energy transitions, mentioned by 39%.

Community empowerment and workforce transition was particularly important for respondents from Africa.

Wilkinson added: “Our call to action on humanising energy is key to making energy transitions happen in a new context of low trust, increasing fragmentation and polarisation, and new demands for energy justice.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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