The B20 – which represents the global business community within the Group of 20 (G20) countries – and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have called on political and industry leaders in the global forum to seize the “unique opportunity” presented by the coronavirus pandemic to put in place policies that accelerate the energy transition “at low financial, political and social cost”.

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In a joint statement, issued following a series of meetings among G20 environment and energy ministers, the pair said the “importance of technology and innovation in achieving diverse energy systems that contribute to climate mitigation goals, global energy development and global prosperity” had been highlight in previous meetings.

But they underlined that a “resilient recovery” from Covid-19 hinged on a “grand coalition” of public and private actors making a massive investment, estimated at $3.5trn a year to 2050, that was tailored to prevent a rebound of CO2 emissions and at the same time support sustainable economic growth.

“The Covid-19 pandemic with historically low energy prices is a unique opportunity for governments to enact policies that steer their clean-energy transitions forward at low financial, political and social cost,” said B20 chair Yousef Al-Benyan.

Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, stated: “Mobilising the critical investments for meeting international energy and climate goals requires a grand coalition spanning governments, companies, investors and citizens … to accelerate the major deployment of clean energy technologies that we need to build more sustainable and resilient energy systems.

“Despite the challenges we face from the Covid-19 crisis, stronger clean energy actions and ambitions from a growing number of governments and companies around the world make me increasingly optimistic for the future.”

Among the key recommendations set out in the B20-IEA communiqué, were: acceleration of deployment of commercialised “low-emissions and emissions-neutral” technologies, as well as investing in “crucial” sectors including hydrogen, batteries, and carbon capture utilisation and storage; implementing energy pricing and tax reforms with revenues to finance a “just transition”; enhancing energy market stability via data transparency and market risk evaluation; and providing access to “affordable and uninterrupted flow of clean energy for all”.

The IEA computes global CO2 emissions will come in around 8% lower this year than in 2019 due to Covid-19-spurred economic slowdown, but that the pandemic also threatens the speed and scope of energy transitions, given the 20% decline in global energy investments seen in 2020.

The International Renewable Energy Agency revealed recently that the global fossil fuel sector had seen annual subsidy support worth over $3trn, a “staggering” 20 times the level the world's governments had granted renewables, since 2017.