New Hope For Renewable Energy

The International Energy Agency, founded in the aftermath of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, allows countries around the world to work together to secure their energy supplies and markets.

Nuclear power has its own organization, too—the International Atomic Energy Agency, which tends to nuclear-specific problems like waste disposal and security. But if renewable energy sources are going to make up a major part of the world's energy future, shouldn't they have their own organization?

Finally, they might. Nearly two decades of lobbying by German Parliamentarian Hermann Scheer culminated last week in the founding conference of the International Renewable Energy Agency, in which 75 countries agreed to form the club. But don't expect instant action—the IRENA nations don't even know what the agency will do yet, having agreed only to fund the organization and try to ratify a charter later this year.

And so far IRENA has stumbled into the same problem that hampered the Kyoto Protocol: you can't change the world without all the major players at the table. India signed on to IRENA after some hesitation, but the U.S., China, Brazil and the U.K. remain on the outside for now. However, the nascent agency might find a friend in newly-elected President Obama, who praised renewables in his campaign and alluded to them in his inaugural address. Smaller nations may help their own energy situations by banding together, but for the world to address its carbon problem, the big boys must get on board.

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