How climate resilient is the global energy sector?

Caroline Field leads The Resilience Shift’s work on resilient energy systems and writes here on energy policy for climate resilience and on varying levels of country preparedness as suggested by The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Climate Resilience Policy Indicator.


I participated earlier this year in an event launching The International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Climate Resilience Policy Indicator.

This valuable resource is an initial effort to assess the level of climate resilience of each country by comparing the level of climate hazard that the country is facing against its policy preparedness

How prepared are countries?

The IEA recently completed a review of climate hazard and climate hazard policy across their member countries. They found that over 85% of the countries in the IEA member and association countries are already exposed to a medium or high level of climate hazard risks, with India, the People’s Republic of China (“China”) and Mexico among the highest-ranked.

The level of climate hazard of each country was determined by a combination of these four aspects: warming, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones.

A review of climate policy across the same countries showed that in around 75% of IEA member and association countries, climate resilience of the energy sector is already covered in at least one of their national energy and climate plans as a priority. In those countries, either the national energy or climate plan has a dedicated section on climate resilience of energy systems with detailed steps for implementation.

But, around 25% of IEA member and association countries do not have a national climate or energy plan that focuses on the climate resilience of energy systems.

Preparing for uncertainty

Changes in climate are a significant risk to the energy sector, directly affecting fuel supply, energy production, physical resilience of energy infrastructure, and energy demand. The increasing frequency or intensity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, wildfires, cyclones, floods and cold spells can cause disruptions to energy supply and difficulties in demand management.

Electricity outages due to heatwaves in California, wildfires in Australia and cyclones in Japan and Korea demonstrate that energy systems are already exposed to and largely affected by climate hazards.

Since climate change is expected to raise these risks, building climate resilience of energy systems becomes increasingly important. Climate resilience is the ability to anticipate, absorb, accommodate and recover from the effects of a potentially hazardous event related to climate change. A climate-resilient energy system is one that can adapt to and withstand the long-term changes in climate patterns and continue to operate under the immediate shocks from extreme weather events and restore the system’s function after an interruption resulting from climate hazards.

When a climate-driven disruption occurs, the significant socioeconomic costs of interrupted energy supply will spread across the society, and energy providers will bear only a fraction of the entire cost. To avoid such market failure, effective policy measures to ensure climate resilience are recommended. Policy measures for climate resilience will not only ensure reliable energy supply but also protect other benefits including social welfare, economic development and protection of vulnerable groups.

One third are insufficiently prepared

The IEA Climate Resilience Policy Indicator shows that half of the IEA member and association countries are ranked excellent or good in terms of climate resilience policy. In particular,13% of the IEA member and association countries including Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, and United Kingdom are estimated to be highly prepared in accordance with the level of climate risk they face.

However, there are still several countries where current plans are inadequate for coping with the estimated level of climate risks. Around 30% of IEA member and association countries are insufficiently prepared against climate risks and ranked weak or inadequate.

Climate Resilience Policy Indicator – Analysis – IEA

The IEA assessment noted how:

  • A climate-resilient energy system protects the health of children and the elderly against the harmful effects of increasing temperature and heatwaves – Extreme heat can cause health problems by increasing the risk of heat strokes and the probability of gastrointestinal infections, particularly among children and elderly people.
  • Enhancing climate resilience of energy supply helps indigenous communities manage the impacts of climate change – Indigenous communities located in remote areas are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts on energy systems. Many of these communities rely on small-scale fossil fuel energy systems that are prone to frequent supply disruptions and outages from extreme weather events.
  • A climate-resilient energy system supports gender equality – Women are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of climate change due to the inequitable distribution of resources and roles, particularly in developing countries and emerging economies.

Panellists’ perspectives from the launch

In my capacity as Head of Energy for The Resilience Shift, I joined a lively panel discussion to discuss the launch of this IEA document alongside representatives from Spain, Korea and India, who discussed the climate related issues that their countries faces and the policy measures in place to mitigate and adapt to this challenge.

As noted, many countries have committed to a climate resilience plan, however the question then turns to how these policies and goals can be delivered. I presented the contribution that The Resilience Shift is making in this space through the development of guidance; tools and communities of practice including the Infrastructure Pathways project; where through our leadership of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure we are developing guidance for implementing climate resilient infrastructure systems.

This goes beyond sharing high-level principles to provide clearly differentiated, achievable actions for practitioners at each lifecycle stage that are coordinated to be mutually reinforcing. It will link practitioner actions and decisions across the lifecycle to embed and retain resilience value. It will provide consistent, clear terminology across the infrastructure lifecycle and help to embed systems thinking at all stages of project development.

I also introduced the Energy Resilience Framework, shown above (developed by The Resilience Shift’s founding partner Arup). This provides a framework and maturity model across multiple dimensions for measuring best practice in resilience in the energy sector. It includes consideration of leadership a strategy; appropriateness of policy and regulation; sustainable financial resilience; empowerment and engagement of consumers; adaptive and integrated planning. It is imperative that resilience is considered holistically using systems thinking to understand interdependencies and potential impacts.

Finally, I discussed the importance of sharing knowledge and convening stakeholders and introduced our new global network of grid operators that we are convening to tackle resilience and decarbonisation.

To find out more please contact: [email protected]

The IEA Climate Resilience Policy Indicator Report can be found at Climate Resilience Policy Indicator – Analysis – IEA

Panellists at the London Climate Action Week event convened by the IEA were:

  • Lorena Prado Orcoyen, Spanish Office of Climate Change, Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge
  • Abinash Mohanty, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) India
  • Hanna Cho, Korea Adaptation Center for Climate Change (KACCC), Korea Environment Institute (KEI)
  • Sameer Pethe, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)
  • Caroline Field, The Resilience Shift, Arup

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