Since 1995, when more than 170 nations voted to extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, civil society has been calling for the establishment of an international agency to promote renewable energy sources to take the place of fossil fuels without resorting to nuclear power.
Recognizing the “inextricable link” between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, Abolition 2000, a global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, drafted a model statute for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and lobbied nations around the world to institute it.  Joining with other grassroots networks working to avoid catastrophic climate change through a transition to sustainable energy, activists spoke up at numerous international meetings and conferences and conferred with national environmental departments, seeking support for an energy agency focused solely on clean, safe, renewable energy.
In January 2009, one year ago, Germany, Denmark, and Spain launched the founding meeting for IRENA in Bonn, Germany.  A year later, 142 of the 192 member states of the United Nations, as well as the European Union, have signed the IRENA statute. The agency has opened headquarters in Abu Dhabi and branch offices in Bonn and Vienna, and its interim-director general, Helene Pelosse, a former French environmental minister who held positions in trade and finance as well, is determined to hire a staff comprised of at least 50 percent women.
IRENA is committed to becoming a principal driving force in promoting a rapid transition toward the sustainable use of a renewable energy on a global scale. It has a mandate to promote all forms of renewable energy produced in a sustainable manner, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, and appropriate bio energy. It will provide practical advice and support for both industrialized and developing countries, helping them to build capacity and improve their regulatory frameworks.
This year, “IRENA will focus on building a network of international renewable energy experts, starting to map the global potential of renewables, and build up a comprehensive database of policies to promote renewable energy,” said Pelosse. It “will become a one-stop-shop for up-to-date and relevant information on renewable energy.”  As a pilot project, IRENA will help develop renewable energy for a number of islands within the Kingdom of Tonga that lack basic electricity. 
Every 30 minutes, enough of the sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s surface to meet global energy demand for an entire year. Wind can satisfy the world’s electricity needs 40 times over, and meet all global energy demands five times over. The geothermal energy stored in the top six miles of the earth’s crust contains 50,000 times the energy of the world’s known oil and gas resources. Tidal, wave, and small hydropower can also provide vast stores of energy everywhere on earth, abundant and free for every person on our planet, rich and poor alike. 
While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been committed to promoting nuclear power and the International Energy Agency (IEA) was established in the 1970s to handle the crisis in fossil fuel distribution, only IRENA will be solely dedicated to promoting clean, safe, renewable energy from the abundant energy resources of our planet.
As a derivative of the Greek word eirene, meaning “peace,” IRENA is particularly well-named. The rapid development of renewable energy will enable us to forego our reliance on fossil and nuclear fuels, the continued misuse of which will lead inevitably to climate catastrophe, nuclear proliferation, and perpetual resource wars. Universal reliance on sustainable energy will instead create a promising path toward creating peace on earth.
Alice Slater wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Original article at: www.yesmagazine.org
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