Climate resilient energy systems support the clean energy transition by addressing adverse impacts of climate change on renewable energy, promoting sustainable development by ensuring reliable energy services, boosting energy security through coping with climate-driven disruptions, and reducing risks from climate disasters. 

To build climate resilience, policies have a critical role to play. Although energy providers have a direct interest in protecting their own assets and providing customers with a reliable service, the true costs of forgoing climate resilience measures may not be accurately understood. When a climate-driven disruption occurs, the significant socioeconomic costs of interrupted energy supply spreads across society, often disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups, while energy providers bear only a fraction of the entire cost. Effective policy measures are therefore needed to ensure climate resilience not only fosters reliable energy supply, but also promotes broader social and economic goals, such as protecting the welfare of citizens, particularly vulnerable groups. 

A climate-resilient energy system protects the health of children and the elderly against the harmful effects of increasing temperature and heatwaves.

Extreme heat can cause health problems by increasing the risk of heat strokes and the probability of gastrointestinal infections, particularly among children and elderly people. For instance, in Mexico, the mortality rate due to heat strokes and gastrointestinal infections increased by 1.3% and 1.07% respectively, per 1 °C increase in average local temperature during the period 1979-2003. Children under five years old and those aged over 65 years old were particularly vulnerable to these diseases, showing a higher mortality rate from heat strokes and gastrointestinal infections than other age groups.

Reliable energy supply during extreme heat plays a central role in protecting vulnerable groups against these diseases. It enables the regulation of indoor temperature, refrigeration of food and supply of potable water. Studies on the health effects of the 2003 New York City blackout underscores the importance of a climate-resilient energy system, demonstrating power outages during hot weather can significantly increase mortality and hospitalisation compared with heat alone.

Enhancing climate resilience of energy supply helps indigenous communities manage the impacts of climate change.

Indigenous communities located in remote areas are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts on energy systems. Many of these communities rely on small-scale fossil fuel energy systems that are prone to frequent supply disruptions and outages from extreme weather events. For instance, there are approximately 200 remote indigenous communities in Canada that are completely dependent on diesel as a major source for heat and power. While it has been considered a reliable source of energy, diesel reliance is debilitating for these communities. Transporting diesel fuel into these communities by barge, plane or ice road is expensive. It makes remote communities sensitive to the fluctuation in diesel prices, while a rapidly changing permafrost and more intense or frequent extreme weather events could affect diesel production and safety of transportation. Indeed, strong hurricanes such as Katrina and Delta have disrupted oil production in North America and made global oil prices rise.

Diversifying energy options and shifting to locally available energy sources can enhance the climate resilience of remote indigenous communities. To support the transition of remote indigenous communities onto clean energy sources, Canada has launched three core programs: the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities program, the Indigenous Off-diesel Initiative and the Northern Responsible Energy Approach for Community Heat and Electricity program. Collectively, these programs are supporting renewable energy and capacity building projects in more than 160 communities across Canada that aim to create climate-resilient energy supply and energy independence in these communities by accelerating the low carbon transition through community-driven solutions.

A climate-resilient energy system supports gender equality.

Women are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of climate change due to the inequitable distribution of resources and roles, particularly in developing countries and emerging economies. A lower level of education among women than men makes them more vulnerable to climate risk because they have less access to critical information on weather alerts and opportunities for adaptive capacity building. For instance, in India, women have considerably less information that would enable them to manage climate risk and respond effectively to changing climate patterns. In addition, extreme weather events such as droughts and floods force women and girls to spend more time securing water and fuel, which is traditionally considered the responsibility of women in some countries. This leaves less time for women to access training and education, continuing the cycle of inequity.

A climate-resilient energy system that provides reliable energy for cooking, water pumping and heating during extreme weather events can improve gender equality. It can save a significant amount of time spent on collecting water and fuel during droughts and floods and help women invest more time in their education and training


Mainstreaming climate resilience in energy systems through national energy and climate plans is the first step. Addressing energy sector climate resilience in high-level policy documents, which generally result from broad and extensive consultations, can initiate and activate discussions on climate risks and resilience measures among stakeholders. It can encourage the energy sector to consider climate risks and impacts from the initial stage of energy projects and incorporate resilience measures into operation and maintenance.

This article assesses the level of policy preparedness of IEA member and association countries, focusing on their national energy and climate plans. It examines whether national energy and climate plans emphasise or prioritise climate resilience of the energy sector; whether they provide concrete action plans for implementation; and whether the proposed action plans are consistent between national energy and climate plans. Based on the responses to these questions, it splits the level of policy preparedness into four categories: high, medium-high, medium-low and low.

The criteria of policy preparedness assessment for climate resilience of the energy sector

Policy preparedness

Description of criteria


Both the national climate plan and national energy plan emphasise or prioritise building climate resilience into the energy sector and provide detailed actions for implementation. The action plans of both are consistent and linked to each other


Both the national climate plan and national energy plan mention or discuss climate resilience of the energy sector, but only one of them prioritises or emphasises the issue and provides concrete steps for implementation.


Either the national climate plan or energy plan emphasises or prioritises climate resilience of the energy sector and provides a concrete action plan for this.


Neither the national climate plan nor national energy plan emphasises or prioritises climate resilience of the energy sector AND/OR Neither the national climate plan nor national energy plan provides a concrete action plan for building climate resilience into the energy sector.

Countries have already made the effort to incorporate climate resilience in their national energy and climate plans. In around 75% of IEA member and association countries, climate resilience of the energy sector is already covered in at least one of their national energy and climate plans as a priority. In those countries, either the national energy or climate plan has a dedicated section on climate resilience of energy systems with detailed steps for implementation. Furthermore, in IEA countries such as Italy and Spain, climate resilience of energy systems is underscored in both national energy and climate plans and the proposed actions in both plans are aligned and interlinked to each other. For instance, Italy has a specific section on the energy sector’s climate resilience in its National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy with a proposal of actions, while the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan also covers the topic and proposes potential measures. The suggested actions in both documents are largely aligned to each other and closely interlinked.

Around 25% of IEA member and association countries do not have a national climate or energy plan that focuses on the climate resilience of energy systems. Although most of them have concrete adaptation plans for other sectors (e.g. agriculture, water) and measures for climate change mitigation in their national energy plans, actions for adaptation and resilience in the energy sector are still missing. Given that about half of these countries are assessed to have a high or medium-high level of climate hazard, the absence of concrete plans for climate resilience may accentuate risks to energy security in these countries. 

Of course, prioritisation of climate resilience in national climate and energy plans does not capture a full picture of policy preparedness against climate risks. Although this report focuses on climate resilience measures in national climate and energy plans as an initial step, prioritisation of climate resilience and existence of action plans does not guarantee policy preparedness. A whole cycle of planning, implementation, capacity building, monitoring and review of these measures is needed to build resilient energy systems. A further assessment of policy preparedness in terms of tracking progress, measuring improvement, and updating plans will enable a more comprehensive assessment. Countries can consider using existing indicators or frameworks to examine their climate resilience policy preparedness, such as the OECD checklist for national and sub-national governments for climate resilience.

Level of policy preparedness for climate resilience of the energy sector, IEA member and association countries, May 2021