What drew your organisation to joining the ETC?
Delivering the energy transition is central to the work of my institution, and my role in particular. We do this through financing. And we do this through supporting policy makers in the countries we operate in to make the regulatory changes that make that financing possible. The ETC helps us to shape those vital conversations that we have with the people in our countries of operations that will make the energy transition a reality. We know that we can turn to the ETC for the difficult questions that we are engaging with, because those are precisely the questions that the ETC is forensically scrutinising. And we know that the ETC will provide us with credible findings; findings that are grounded in rigorous analysis; but that are accessible, comprehensible and practical. Importantly, the ETC’s work brings together the thinking of a diverse collective of stakeholders – industrial companies, energy companies, mining companies, financial institutions, thinktanks and multilateral developments banks like ourselves. This keeps the ETC’s findings anchored in the practical experiences of those that are at the forefront of delivering the transition.
What do you see as the ETC’s most impactful achievement since you’ve been a Commissioner/Representative?
There are many highlights. The ETC’s first flagship report on the power sector, the path-breaking follow-up Mission Possible report on hard-to-abate sectors, and the landmark hydrogen report that represented the most comprehensive analytical work that anyone in the industry had produced. But if I was to pick one thing, I think it’s the optimism that it has brought to the debate: we know that the transition requires a fundamental reshaping of our economies; but the ETC has shown that it is not only technically possible, it can be achieved at a manageable cost and brings with it many opportunities. There is no denying the gravity of the climate crisis and just how little time we have to act and act decisively. But the ETC’s work is showing us that it can be done. And it is showing us exactly how it can be done.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle on the journey to net zero?
The most immediate obstacle is to get all countries off coal fast enough to keep the 1.5 degree goal still within reach (as we know this is a race no one wins unless everyone finishes). Because remember, it is not just getting to net zero that matters; it is when we get there, and how we get there. We need to get to the end of this decade and still have a fighting chance of keeping 1.5 degree alive. That means we must shift decisively away from coal, and shift away now. It means rolling out the technologies that need to replace coal fast enough. And it also means addressing the upheavals that come with this. The implications for energy security and affordability. The impact on communities that have been built around the coal industry for generations. This is where the just transition will become so important: we will need to give the coal-dependent countries and communities a route out of the fossil fuels economy, and place them at the centre of the opportunities that the energy transition also brings.
What are the key milestones you see in the road to net-zero, and why?
The most important one on the agenda right now is to get to 2030 with 1.5 degrees still within reach. I was at COP27– and the words of the Secretary General are still echoing in my ears: “our planet is still in the emergency room”. And it is in this decade that we need to make the decisive shift away from unabated fossil fuels.
What does that mean in terms of specific milestones? For me, it is about reaching the points when we are able to do the things that we know need to be done, but doing them at scale. We need megawatts of renewables turned into gigawatts. We need demonstration green hydrogen projects to become commercial projects delivering product affordably that developers are already queuing up to deliver. We need zero-emissions vehicles to become the only vehicles on the road and for electricity to become the dominant energy source in transport and industry. And much more besides. Everything at scale: policy changes; rapidly declining technology cost curves. And mobilising financing in trillions.
What is the one necessary change you feel most personally passionate about in the transition journey?
Bring railways back! By which I mean decarbonising transport, whether modal shift to rail, electrifying urban transport via tram, trolley buses, metros, EV charging, electric buses and ride shares and eventually decarbonising shipping and aviation. This is critical for addressing the climate crisis: indeed, electrifying road transport is one of the six priority actions in the ETC’s briefing on keeping the 1.5C goal alive.
But it is also critical for air quality. I have spent my entire working career visiting the countries that we work in. And that means travelling often to cities choked in smog. Seeing, feeling, and breathing the effects of our addiction to fossil fuels. Five years ago my personal passion was delivering renewables, unlocking and unblocking to make them happen. And today, I feel the need to drive the decarbonisation of transport with the same passion and zeal. We know transport is a major source of emissions and of particulate matter in cities. Choking citizens, young and old. Cutting lives short. Causing lifelong chronic illnesses. Electrifying transport will not only help with the climate crisis; it will bring with it a host of other benefits – giving billions around the world a chance breath clean air in their cities again.