Solar panels in Gansu Province, China, September 2013. 
Carlos Barria / REUTERS

International institutions are notoriously slow to adapt to change. Nowhere has this problem been more glaring than in the energy field. Since 2000, surging demand for energy in emerging economies and shifts in suppliers driven by a revolution in unconventional oil and gas extraction have transformed the global energy landscape. Yet the International Energy Agency (IEA), the most prominent energy-focused multilateral institution, has seemed stuck in the past, its membership restricted to states that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a rich man’s club of advanced market democracies.

When the IEA was created in 1974, its members

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