In the run up to the November 2017 International Energy Agency (IEA) ministerial meeting in Paris, Jonathan Elkind, a Fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy, writes on the importance of the new U.S. Administration to lead the charge in modernizing the IEA. Despite criticism from President Trump about the efficacy of international organizations and his championing of an “America First” energy policy, Elkind urges the president and his team to not waste an opportunity to invest wisely in an institution that has not only served the United States and its partners well for more than forty years, but has great potential to continue to do so in the next forty.
Following an overview of IEA's history and benefits the organization has brought to its members, Elkind writes that just as the energy world has changed since the IEA's inception in 1974, so too must the IEA change and adapt to the new global energy paradigm. He notes that the organization has already begun to take steps in the direction of modernization--at the last ministerial meeting in 2015, members endorsed a three-part program including, “enhanced engagement with major emerging economies, strengthened and broadened commitment to energy security, and greater focus on clean energy technology, including energy efficiency.” But, despite this progress, U.S. activism and leadership is pivotal to successful modernization of the organization, both because the United States is the IEA’s largest shareholder and because the U.S. will play a key role engaging closely with member countries and partners to forge a strong deal and to keep focused on essential elements of the modernization process.
When considering options to move forward, Elkind maps out two paths. The first, which would create a new, broader organization untethered to the OECD, would not be in the interest of the United States or other IEA members because it would require a significant amount of time, staff bandwidth, and funding. The alternative, and better option, involves the U.S sustaining the IEA by ensuring it stays focused on today’s top-most energy challenges and providing a path to membership for those countries wishing to become members.