Advocates for clean energy are often accused of “carbon blindness” — focusing entirely on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without taking other social goals into account. For instance, more than a billion people across the world lack access to basic modern energy. Attempts to solve that problem should be woven into our plans alongside decarbonization.
It is true that a more holistic perspective is generally preferable. But of all the institutions one might have expected to address this critique head on, the International Energy Agency would not have topped the list. The IEA is widely respected by governments and energy experts. Anyone who studies or works with energy follows its work closely. But it has a reputation as somewhat staid and small-c conservative. So it is fascinating, and significant, to see the IEA attempting a more holistic analysis in this year’s World Energy Outlook.