REN21 & COVID-19: A message from the Director

Writing an article in times of COVID-19 is a strange experience.

There are just too many topics I could write about: COVID-19 itself; the ensuing economic crisis; low oil prices (YES, it is a great opportunity to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and even irresponsible not to do it); the impact of COVID-19 on renewable energy; how economic stimulus packages need to be built around renewable energy and energy efficiency; how to continue informing, influencing and debating online to advance the use of renewable energy.

COVID-19 is forcing me to face the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day

Many of us are currently training for the new Olympic discipline called ‘remote working with kids at home’ (which may also include, depending on their age, remote schooling – oh yeah…)

At REN21, working offsite and online is not a problem. What is difficult is trying to ignore my two energetic boys of 7 and 10, being their de-facto teacher, and interacting with other stressed parents that manage (in the space of two hours) to collectively send 78 (!!) WhatsApp messages. All this while trying to concentrate on a conference call. COVID-19 is forcing me to finally face the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and that I’m not a super-hero; what revelation!

Despite juggling work and family and feeling overwhelmed, the situation reminds me how resilient we are as human beings. Collectively, we have lots of resources to handle the situation we are facing, to adapt and to drive change. With all its members’ strengths, energy and potential for innovation, I am convinced that the REN21 community, in its collaborative spirit, can create that change.

Rana in a digital zoom meeting
Rana in a (digital) meeting of the Marrakech Parternship for Global Climate Action


The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to step back, learn, adjust and change

Although I am painfully aware of the devastating health impact of this crisis, it does provide us with the opportunity to step back, learn, adjust and change.

I strongly believe that challenges are opportunities in disguise. There is real momentum behind COVID-19: When thinking about recovery we should not ignore this opportunity to accelerate change.

For both climate and sustainable development reasons, we need to question the way we are doing things; how we produce, consume and finance, how we move goods and provide services, how we trade and share resources etc. COVID-19 raises the same fundamental questions but with an urgency that, unfortunately, those of us in climate and development have been unable to communicate successfully.

We have an opening to strategically create a responsible and sustainable society

In many recent political declarations, sovereignty has become a key concern. Citizens are also more ready to adopt change. The world’s attention is trained on an uncertain future; we have an opening to strategically build on crisis recovery. We can transform it into an opportunity to create a responsible and sustainable society. One that ensures that local supply and value chains are part of the economic model.  One that ensures a clean and healthy environment. There is an opening for sustainable energy to play a key role, but we need to be strategic in what this is. We need to ensure that energy efficiency and renewable energy support systemic change, rather than replacing the current fossil fuel-based system.

For news from the Secretariat and our members, read the latest edition of the REN21 Newsletter here. You can also subscribe to our mailing list.


REN21 is the only global renewable energy community of actors from science, governments, NGOs and industry. We provide up-to-date and peer-reviewed facts, figures and analysis of global developments in technology, policies and markets. Our goal: enable decision-makers to make the transition to renewable energy happen – now.