Nuclear delivers emissions reductions as IEA sets 2020 as the year for clean energy transitions

For immediate release: 12 February 2020

"The challenge of climate change is so immense that we cannot afford to exclude low-carbon technologies" according to International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director, Fatih Birol. Speaking to French newspaper Les Echos[i], Birol criticised the ‘unhealthy debate’ in countries such as Germany that had pitted renewables against nuclear. 

According to the IEA, energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear energy have already proven their worth in the fight against climate change. Birol said, "I applaud France's aggressive effort to develop renewable energy […] But I also think that nuclear power is a major asset for the French economy.” 

The increase in nuclear generation globally seen in 2019 helped avoid an additional 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (50 MtCO2), according to data[ii] released yesterday by the IEA. Recent increases in global greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector stabilized at 33 GtCO2 thanks to higher nuclear output, increased generation from renewables and coal-to-gas switching in advanced economies.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Birol made it clear that all low-carbon technologies will be needed to achieve long-term climate and energy goals, saying, “We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all.”

Commenting on the report, Agneta Rising, Director General, World Nuclear Association said, “We need to ensure that this halt in greenhouse gas emissions is not only a plateau, but the beginning of a rapid decline. This will only be achieved by a much greater contribution from nuclear energy, as a key component of a low-carbon energy system.”

Birol announced that the IEA will be holding a Clean Energy Transition Summit in July 2020, bringing together key government ministers, CEOs, investors and other major stakeholders from around the world. He said “The Year 2020 for the IEA will be the year for clean energy transitions and how to address the climate challenge. This will be our main topic. We are seeing the signs for the clean energy transition – there are three reasons: the growth of renewables, natural gas replacing coal, and increasing generation of nuclear power…”

Agneta Rising commented, “It is time for all low-carbon technologies to work together to achieve the clean energy transition. The nuclear industry stands ready to play its part, with our goal to supply 25% of the world’s electricity before 2050. But we need governments and other key decision-makers to take the actions necessary to help us deliver this.”

  [i] "France must have nuclear and renewable energy," says the director of the International Energy Agency. Les Echos, 12 Feb 2020
 [ii] Global CO2 emissions in 2019. International Energy Agency, 11 Feb 2020  


World Nuclear Association is the international organisation that represents the global nuclear industry. Its mission is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy among key international influencers by producing authoritative information, developing common industry positions, and contributing to the energy debate, as well as to pave the way for expanding nuclear business.

If you would like more information on this topic, please call Jonathan Cobb on +44 (0)20 7451 1536 or email