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Losing public support would jeopardize climate efforts, International Energy Forum chief fears

Leaders push for policy development and collaboration to accelerate energy transition and avoid losing public support.

Joseph McMonigle
Joseph McMonigle, Secretary General of the International Energy Forum, speaking at the Lisbon Energy Summit. — Photo by Digital Journal
Joseph McMonigle, Secretary General of the International Energy Forum, speaking at the Lisbon Energy Summit. — Photo by Digital Journal

LISBON — “One of the things I’m really worried about is losing public support for climate policies and energy transition,” Joseph McMonigle, Secretary General of the International Energy Forum (IEF), said during the opening plenary of the Lisbon Energy Summit & Exhibition.

“I’m worried that the public starts to equate high prices and volatility with today’s energy with the energy of the future, and the energy transition will lose public support. That would be a terrible thing.”

With members from 73 countries, the IEF is the world’s largest international organization of energy ministers. McMonigle was joined on stage with speakers from McKinsey & Company, bp, the European Commission, Portuguese energy company, REN, and an advisor for the European Commission.

McMonigle said issues around climate change and energy are existential, and if policymakers and the energy industry lose the public’s support, it will jeopardize efforts to address climate change through the energy transition.

“We don’t have another shot at getting them back,” he said. “It’s a one-and-done type of proposition.”

McMonigle’s angst around losing public support comes as businesses and governments around the world plan short- and long-term initiatives and develop policies to reduce emissions in the global path to net zero.

With 80% of power still coming from fossil fuels globally, major infrastructure investments are required to bring on other forms of energy, and that process is slow and expensive.

Energy leaders talk about the acceleration of the energy transition through supportive policy at the Lisbon Energy Summit in Portugal
Energy leaders talk about the acceleration of the energy transition through supportive policy at the Lisbon Energy Summit in Portugal. — Photo by Digital Journal

Policy should lead the energy transition and technology will follow

Happening this week in Portugal, the Lisbon Energy Summit & Exhibition kicked off with a focus on accelerating energy transition through supportive policy, with a particular focus on three areas: energy security, affordability, and sustainability.

As rising energy costs threaten to exacerbate poverty and dampen competition needed for economic growth around the world, energy affordability is now at the top of government agendas globally.

Diversifying the energy mix and ensuring a stable supply are also central to the energy security focus for companies and delegates in attendance. Diversification was touted as a way to avoid supply disruptions, price volatility, and geopolitical tensions while still also supporting sustainability goals.

The third component of the opening plenary centered on sustainability, with an emphasis on broadening the discourse to encompass clean energy initiatives beyond decarbonization. This included discussions on investment and supportive policies aimed at fostering the development of new clean technologies, while ensuring the protection of conventional oil and gas sources and infrastructure.

Giulia Chierchia
Giulia Chierchia, Executive Vice President of Strategy, Sustainability and Ventures, at bp speaking at the Lisbon Energy Summit. — Photo by Digital Journal

“What we’re trying to do is basically try a full energy transition within a few decades without necessarily having cost or technology leadership yet, and therefore policy needs to be at the center of what we’re trying to do,” said Giulia Chierchia, Executive Vice President, Strategy, Sustainability and Ventures at bp.

Chierchia notes that policy framed toward energy security will be critical for energy transition, and that has become evident in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We’ve seen what happened in the aftermath of the Ukraine war, and a system which isn’t secure and that isn’t affordable isn’t a system which will enable an energy transition,” she said.

In addition to energy security to fuel the energy transition, Chierchia noted that technology will be critical, but that governments and leaders need to be technology-neutral and avoid setting technology choices beforehand.

“We’re navigating an environment of technology uncertainty, and we don’t really know what the answer is going to be,” she said. “The perfect solution might not be the solution that actually delivers most progress in the short term.”

Energy companies have to focus on upskilling

Paula Pinho, Director at the Directorate-General Energy in the European Commission said collaboration will be needed, and siloing will be the achilles heel for energy transition if it is not managed.

Paula Pinho
Paula Pinho, Director at the Directorate-General Energy in the European Commission, speaking at the Lisbon Energy Summit. — Photo by Digital Journal

“Forget about policymakers writing the legislation on net zero,” Pinho said. “Forget about industry alone being able to drive it forward. We really need cooperation between the private sector, academia, and financing institutions.”

That extends to public-private cooperation, Pinho said, with a focus on training and universities teaching needed future workforce skills. 

She urged private companies to avoid viewing each other solely as competitors when it comes to talent development, and instead work together to provide training that upskills the future workforce for energy transition jobs.

“The worst thing which could happen is we have efficient legislation, even the financing, yet we don’t have the necessary skills,” she said.

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Chris is an award-winning entrepreneur who has worked in publishing, digital media, broadcasting, advertising, social media & marketing, data and analytics. Chris is a partner in the media company Digital Journal, content marketing and brand storytelling firm Digital Journal Group, and Canada's leading digital transformation and innovation event, the mesh conference. He covers innovation impact where technology intersections with business, media and marketing. Chris is a member of Digital Journal's Insight Forum.

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