In January of 2019, Canada officially joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), becoming the 160th member of the global intergovernmental organization. This is an important development, showing the commitment that Canada is making to climate action and to the global energiewende.
The overall aim of IRENA is to support countries in their transition to a renewable and sustainable energy future. It promotes renewable energy in its myriad forms – hydro, solar, wind, and more – and is dedicated to achieving 100% renewables on a global scale. Credit has to go to Germany for its role in the founding of IRENA and in its work in driving it forward. The concluding resolution of the 2004 Bonn International Renewable Energy Conference included support for the establishment of IRENA, and in 2008 the first preparatory conferences and workshops took place in Berlin. The Innovation and Technology Centre of IRENA is also based in Bonn, which roots the agency even further in Germany. IRENA itself is based in Abu Dhabi and the UAE continues to play an important role.
As a major world player, bringing Canada on board is a key step on the path to reaching the goal of 100% renewables. It marks a continued growth in membership for IRENA year on year, with the membership almost doubled from 85 members in 2011. At present more than 80% of countries are members, including major world powers such as China, United States, Russia and the European Union. Achieving an almost universal membership for an international organization after just ten years is a remarkable feat. It is proof positive that there is a demand for international dialogue on the energy transition.
Renewable energy means jobs
Canada sees the green economy as a real opportunity. Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, stated “Becoming an IRENA member will accelerate Canada’s efforts to build a clean energy future which will bring new economic growth and thousands of new, well-paying jobs.”
Outgoing IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin also recognized the contribution it can make as a positive leading influence. “Canada’s membership firmly underscores the leadership it can demonstrate in renewable energy technology, sustainable development and global energy decarbonisation,” he said. Bringing Canada to the table for multilateral talks will help to push the needle on renewables and show other countries the importance and the potential of sustainable energy. Adnan Z. Amin will be finishing his work with IRENA in early April, when Francesco La Camera of Italy will follow on as his successor.
Currently Canada generates two-thirds of its power through renewable energy, and of its total final energy supply renewables make up an impressive 20%. This is largely due to the considerable amount of hydropower it produces, but other sources of renewable energy are also in play. Wind power makes up 5% of Canada’s electricity generation, with solar, biomass, and geothermal also in play. The energiewende is very much underway.
Members of the future
There are currently 23 states in ascension to IRENA membership, one of which is Brazil. Given the trepidation that some environmentalists feel about the direction of the new Brazilian leadership, having a country such as Canada get on board could act as necessary influence on the future policies of Brazil. All countries need to get behind the energiewende, and the addition of Canada is another great step.
The addition of Canada as a member is the start of what is set to be another big year for IRENA. Currently the agency is working on the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation. The work of the Commission has been co-sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office alongside the Foreign Ministries of Norway and UAE. The final report was presented at the latest IRENA assembly in January. It’s an exciting time for global energiewende.
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