Meet the Man Who Defines the Energy Markets—And Wants the World to Go Clean

Fatih Birol is the International Energy Agency’s chief researcher on energy market trends. Birol is heard around the world by energy policy makers and companies, who help to inform decisions on how human power can be used in factories, homes and automobiles.

Birol, after decades of an oil-based economy, declared this year that the dawn of a clean energy world economy was upon us. First, in May a report from the agency said that there is no longer any need to invest in new fossil-fuel supply infrastructure; then, in October, the agency called for a tripling of global investment in clean energy and related technologies—some $4 trillion annually by 2030. “A new global energy economy is emerging,” Birol says. “Clean-energy technologies are slowly but surely going to replace the existing energy industry.”

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Birol has been an important presence for anyone who is interested in details about climate policy in recent decades. Birol has always been the main speaker at large gatherings and is widely considered to be an authority on climate policy. Activists have long criticized Birol’s and the IEA’s insufficient efforts.

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However, those concerns have almost disappeared in 2021 as Birol has been one of most compelling speakers to emphasize the importance of rapidly growing clean energy. He has many arguments for renewables. Clean energy is now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels, thanks to falling costs. A growing economy can be aided by clean energy. This will create an additional market of more than $1 trillion and power the Global South. Perhaps most importantly, investing in renewables can simultaneously reduce global temperatures to sustainable levels.

The IEA also set specific milestones in clean energy. By 2050, 95% of electricity must come from renewable sources.

Birol is aware that his analysis will only go so far. He hopes that governments use COP26 to implement his recommendations in policy. A successful COP would send a signal to investors that clean energy is here to stay and that continued investment in fossil fuels is risky, he says—and governments can play a pivotal role in spreading the word. “We need to find different ways of supporting the right choices,” Birol says.

Read More of TIME’s COP26 Coverage: Meet the people working to achieve the COP26 Agenda


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