The IAEA has submitted a report to the G20 on nuclear energy’s role in achieving energy security and climate change goals. The Agency has launched its participation with the G20 (Group of Twenty) under the Presidency of Brazil as an invited organisation in the Energy Transitions Working Group (ETWG) ahead of the next G20 leaders' summit, in Rio de Janeiro in November. The IAEA report laid out how policy shifts and better access to financing mechanisms are essential for nuclear power deployment to scale up to the level needed for the world to reach net zero by 2050. This was the first time the IAEA had made a presentation to the G20 on issues related to nuclear power, following on from successful prior engagements on the value of nuclear techniques for fighting plastic pollution.

Nuclear Energy for Net Zero: Accelerating Investment in the Clean Energy Transitions provides an overview of nuclear power in the clean energy mix, underscoring the need to speed up nuclear investments to meet net zero goals, especially in emerging markets & developing economies. The IAEA will be making a series of contributions to the working group throughout 2024, providing information on nuclear energy’s key role in the net zero transition.

Nuclear energy already plays a key role in most of the countries of the G20, which is the main forum for international economic cooperation, representing 85% of global economic output, more than 75% of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. Fourteen G20 countries operate NPPs, two are considering adding nuclear to their energy mix, and six joined the pledge to triple nuclear capacity by 2050 made at COP28 in Dubai.

“The global clean energy transition requires nuclear energy – that is absolutely clear,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. “In the past months the world has embraced that fact in several milestones, including by nuclear’s inclusion in the first Global Stocktake at COP28; in the pledge by more than 20 countries to triple nuclear capacity, and also in our landmark Nuclear Energy Summit last month.” He added: “Through the leadership of the Brazilian Presidency of the G20, the IAEA is helping to further build on this momentum within the G20 Energy Transitions Working Group.”

The ETWG discusses the use of clean and sustainable energy sources and the pathways to a fair, accessible and inclusive energy transition. Under the Brazilian Presidency, the working group will prioritise three main themes: how to accelerate financing of energy transitions, especially in emerging markets and developing economies; the social dimension of the energy transition; and perspectives of sustainable fuel innovation.

The IAEA report calls for a combination of a supportive policy environment and improved access to finance to scale up investments in nuclear energy, particularly in developing economies. Investments in nuclear power will need to more than double from current levels to more than $100bn annually if the world is to reach net zero, the document notes, in line with estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“The outlook presented by the IAEA tells a very important story around the scientific consensus on the role of nuclear energy to reach net zero, highlighting the acknowledgement of the role of nuclear in climate agreements and the recognition by the IPCC and climate experts that nuclear is needed to achieve net zero,” said Thiago Barral, Secretary of Planning and Energy Transition of the Ministry of Mines of Brazil. “It is fundamental to bring this to the ETWG discussions.”

The IAEA’s technical work with the G20 will culminate in October when it releases another report, Climate Change and Nuclear Power 2024: Financing Nuclear Energy in Low Carbon Transitions. This new report will examine the dynamics of nuclear project financing for low carbon transitions and will be released in the run-up to the G20 Presidential Summit and COP29, and on the sidelines of the G20 Energy Transitions Ministerial Meeting and the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation meetings.

For the next working group meeting at the end of May, the IAEA will release a toolkit produced for the G20 on sustainable energy planning, building on decades of the IAEA’s expertise in enhancing national and regional capacities for energy system analysis and planning, including capacity building in developing economies and the transfer of energy planning tools and methodologies. “Energy is absolutely fundamental to society,” noted Grossi. “Countries need to plan carefully so that their people have access to reliable, affordable and sustainable sources. The IAEA assists developing and developed countries in this endeavour, and that includes working with the experts within the G20.”