A new agency – the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) was established on 26 January 2009 to promote the use of renewable energy on a global scale. At the founding conference in Bonn, Germany, more than 120 government delegations from across the world (representing 75 nations) gathered together to sign the Agency's Statute.

The conference was chaired by Germany's Federal Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. As Denmark and Spain from the outset had actively supported the preparation together with Germany, the respective Ministers, Connie Hedegaard (Danish Minister for Climate and Energy) and Miguel Sebastián Gascón (Spanish Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism) were elected Vice-Chairs.

SIGNATORIES

The countries which have signed up include Spain, Norway, Ireland, Iceland, France, Germany, Spain, Mexico and South Africa. Many other nations have expressed their commitment to IRENA's goals and have indicated that they intend to join in the future. The United States has not joined, but it is widely expected to do so under the new administration.

Britain is not a signatory to IRENA. The Guardian reported, on 26 January 2009, that officials in the new Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have stated:

"We are certainly supportive and are interested in joining but we need to make sure that what we're joining has the right focus. There needs to be more focus on the deployment of renewables rather than just talking policy and issuing papers – and there needs to be a wider membership."

DECC wants to see the US and Asian countries such as China and Japan sign up before the United Kingdom becomes a member.

THE STATUTE

The Statute lays out the objectives of the Agency which is to "expedite and enhance throughout the world the contribution renewable energy sources can make to peace, the protection of resources, the stabilization of the global climate, the conservation of nature, economic development, a guaranteed energy supply in every country and to health".

The Agency will submit a report on its work to the General Assembly of the United Nations every year, with a General Conference composed of representatives of all members assembling for a regular meeting every two years.

RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER INTERNATIONAL BODIES

Queries have been raised over how IRENA will work alongside other bodies, but participants have stated that there is a need for a strong independent body which supports renewables. IRENA hopes to address issues which the International Energy Agency (IEA) have been unsuccessful in tackling. The IEA has been criticised for not doing enough to promote renewable energy, and it is widely recognised by IRENA's participants that many existing strategies do not have a central focal point. IRENA hopes to rectify that and ensure going forward the members work together with a common purpose.