As legislators play a crucial role in policy making by adopting national budgets and laws, holding their governments to account and scrutinizing their decisions, their leadership in times of the COVID-19 pandemic is more needed than ever. Their oversight function is of major relevance when governments are considering trade-offs between economic recovery and the climate crisis, as we can currently observe it around the world.
During the IRENA Legislators Dialogue mid-July 2020, parliamentarians discussed the merits of a renewables-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a strong focus on countries in the Global South, one of the key questions was how to enable a social inclusion approach to strengthen communities’ living standards and development in the next decade. As Francesco La Camera, IRENA´s Director-General emphasized in his welcome note, the effects of the crisis have been felt by all, but disproportionally so by the most vulnerable communities and countries across the globe. Especially in least-developed and developing countries, the pandemic is exposing existing weaknesses in energy systems and, by extension, critical sectors like health and water.
GRC Chair Baerbel Hoehn highlighted the need to support small and medium-sized companies as they are often overlooked by the major economic stimulus packages. “We risk losing all the jobs and innovation that was built over the past years, especially in the sector of distributed energy,” she said in her opening remarks during the dialogue. Legislators must, therefore, initiate the development of financial instruments particularly for entrepreneurs, community-based energy initiatives as well as municipalities and start-ups (see the GRC Policy Brief on Leveraging Finance as well as the GRC Policy Brief of The Role of RE in Economic Stimulus Packages).
Dr Kandeh Yumkella, MP in Sierra Leone and a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All underlined this and added: “We cannot go back to business as usual. As in every crisis, there is an opportunity to build back better for greater resilience.”
Finally, Douka Sediko, ECOWAS Commissioner for Energy and Mines highlighted the need to work together globally, exchange ideas and initiatives to learn from each other. Because often, legislators face similar. Therefore, IRENA and the GRC are committed to facilitating this dialogue further.
The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement provide very clear guidance for future investments into new infrastructures and new power plants. Any governmental action to stimulate our economy, therefore, has to be first and foremost based on these goals. Clearing the way for renewable energy is one of the most important sectors to invest.