(Re-) Claiming Energy’s Leadership

The previous year in particular has shown that our energy systems are not fit for the challenges of the present and the future, and that there is a clear lack of a widely accepted, positive and transformative vision in the global discourse. As the first major energy related event in 2023, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week – ADSW set the stage for the solution-focused energy conversations that we need to navigate through the current tumultuous times. Not only do we need to reduce the energy systems’ carbon footprint, but we also need to ensure that a growing and more wealthy population is supplied with affordable, clean, and secure (Trilemma positive) energy.

Award ceremony of the Zayed Sustainability Prize

Paving the way for real action in the sustainability agenda, ADSW left me with a lot of positive impressions. After the disturbances in the past year(s), the energy sector seems to be hopeful again, and it is eager to move beyond single indicator sustainability metrics. It is willing to leave its reactive and passive role in climate debates and ready to start working pro-actively on future-proof solutions. Young people and other previously overlooked stakeholder groups were put in the spotlight and given the opportunity to actively shape the conversations. What we see is that energy finally starts to re-claim its position as a driver of progress, change, and wellbeing through taking the lead in sustainability – not only climate – debates. Rightly so, the United Arab Emirates, ADSW’s and next COP’s host country, is ready to move from its high dependency on fossil fuels and set the climate agenda through proactively shaping sustainability.

The upcoming year until World Energy Congress 2024 in Rotterdam will show if these impressions were just isolated highlights in a very different landscape, or if the energy sector is indeed (re-) claiming its leadership position. This also calls for new energy narratives and visions for the future – one of those being humanising energy – that can counter the dystopian climate prophecies we currently see. ADSW, COP 28, and the World Energy Congress are intermediate, but essential steps into redefining the energy sector’s role in climate debates – it is not the bad guy in class but the enabler for human wellbeing. While COP 28 will be the global stocktake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the World Energy Congress 2024 will be the global stocktake of the energy system’s ability to redesign itself. For people AND planet.

Ivo Wakounig 

Impact and Sustainability Adviser at World Energy Council

Future Sustainability Leader of Youth 4 Sustainability (Y4S) at Masdar

portrait image of Charlot Magayi

"As an energy entrepreneur from Nairobi, I'm looking forward to seeing how the World Energy Congress promotes better energy for communities in Africa and to being inspired by how others are tackling the global challenge of modern energy access for all."

Charlot Magayi

Founder and CEO, Mukuru Clean Stoves

portrait image of Ben Hutt

"Three major world crisis - covid, climate and conflict - have revealed the importance and fragility of energy systems. They have reminded us that we must manage the energy trilemma of security, affordability, and sustainability to avoid new shocks and crises."

Ben Hutt

Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Evergen

Portrait image of Gaia Vince

"As we enter the age of the Anthropocene, our human footprint deepens, and we are changing the world as never before. I'm looking forward to conversations about energy for both people and planet at the 26th World Energy Congress, as we prepare for a fundamental shift in how we live."

Gaia Vince

Journalist, Broadcaster and Author

Portrait image of Dr Leonard Birnbaum

"Few events can boast of bringing together such diverse energy leadership and the perspectives of so many different sectors under one roof. I look forward to reconnecting with my peers at the 26th World Energy Congress."

Dr. Leonhard Birnbaum

CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management, E.ON

Portrait image of Rafael Mateo

"We know that new zero is not enough and at ACCIONA we have a planet-positive strategy and the provision of renewable energy is at the heart of regeneration. It's a privilege to be part of the 26th World Energy Congress and its vision to redesign energy for people and the planet"

Rafael Mateo

Chief Executive Officer, ACCIONA EnergÍa