The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that governments should put clean energy technologies at the heart of economic stimulus packages drawn up in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Paris-based agency is concerned that policy makers could lose sight of long-term climate change goals as they develop responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and says that clean energy-focused stimulus packages would have the twin benefits of boosting economic growth and accelerating the clean energy transition.

In a blog post, IEA executive director Dr. Fatih Birol said: “The coronavirus is turning into an unprecedented international crisis, with serious repercussions for people’s health and economic activity. Although they may be severe, the effects are likely to be temporary.

“We should not allow today’s crisis to compromise our efforts to tackle the world’s inescapable challenge.”

Dr. Birol added that economic stimulus packages being drawn up by governments “offer an excellent opportunity” to ensure that clean energy investment continues and will “make a lasting difference to our future”.

Established technologies such as wind and solar could be deployed widely thanks to their reduced costs, while investment in newer technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen would help them to scale up and lower costs.

“This situation is a test of governments and companies’ commitment,” said Dr. Birol. “Observers will quickly notice if their emphasis on clean energy transitions fades when market conditions become more challenging.”

The IEA also believes that falling oil prices – caused by increasing output and falling demand – will undermine clean energy transitions by reducing the impetus for energy efficiency policies. “This would be very bad news, since improvements in energy efficiency, a vital element for reaching international climate goals, have already been weakening in recent years,” Dr. Birol said.

Falling oil prices are also “a great opportunity” to reduce or remove subsidies for fossil fuels, IEA said.