Posted by CODEPINK Staff
by Alice Slater
Since 1995, at the Conference to Extend the Non-Proliferation Treaty, civil society has been calling for the establishment of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Recognizing the “inextricable link” between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and urging a phase out of nuclear power, the Abolition 2000 global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons drafted a model statute for such an Agency and lobbied nations around the world. Joining with other grassroots sustainable energy networks working to avoid catastrophic climate change, activist spoke up at numerous international meetings and conferences, traveling to world capitals, conferring with national environmental departments, seeking support for an energy agency focused solely on clean, safe, renewable energy.
In January 2009, one year ago, Germany, Denmark and Spain launched the founding meeting for IRENA in Bonn, bringing this long campaign to fruition. This month, IRENA met for the third time at its new interim headquarters in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Out of the 192 member states of the United Nations there are now 142 nations as well as the European Union which have signed the IRENA statute in the one year since the Agency was launched. Branch offices for IRENA have been established in Bonn and Vienna, and its first Interim-Director General, Helene Pelosse, a former French environmental minister who held positions in trade and finance as well, is determined to hire a staff comprised of at least 50% women.
IRENA is committed to becoming the main driving force in promoting a rapid transition towards the widespread and sustainable use of a renewable energy on a global scale. It has a mandate to promote increased adoption and use of all forms of renewable energy produced in a sustainable manner such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, and appropriate bio energy. It will provide practical advice and support for both industrialized and developing countries, helping them to improve their regulatory frameworks and build capacity.
For this year, Director General Pelosse said that “IRENA will focus on building a network of international renewable energy experts, starting to map the global potential of renewables and build up a comprehensive database of policies to promote renewable energy.” It “will become a one-stop-shop for up-to-date and relevant information on renewable energy.” As a pilot project, IRENA will assist a number of islands within the Kingdom of Tonga which lack basic electricity. Starting with Tonga and subsequently assisting other less developed countries, IRENA will develop it own systematic advisory approaches and methodologies for policy advice on renewable energy.
Every 30 minutes, enough of the sun’s energy reaches the earth’s surface to meet global energy demand for an entire year. Wind can satisfy the world’s electricity needs 40 times over, and meet all global energy demands five times over. The geothermal energy stored in the top six miles of the earth’s crust contains 50,000 times the energy of the world’s known oil and gas resources. Tidal, wave and small hydropower, can also provide vast stores of energy everywhere on earth, abundant and free for every person on our planet, rich and poor alike.
While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been committed to promoting nuclear power and the International Energy Agency (IEA) was established in the 1970s to handle the crisis in fossil fuel distribution, only IRENA will be solely dedicated to promoting clean, safe, renewable energy from the abundant energy resources of our planet. Since IRENA is a derivative of the Greek word, eirene, meaning “peace”, it is particularly well-named. The rapid development of renewable energy will enable us to forego our reliance on fossil and nuclear fuels, the continued misuse of which will lead inevitably to climate catastrophe, nuclear proliferation and perpetual resource wars. Universal reliance on sustainable energy will instead create a promising path to creating peace on earth.
Alice Slater wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Alice is the NY Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Convener of the Abolition 2000 Sustainable Energy Working Group