Given the country's environmental tendencies, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Great Britain has refused to sign on with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a new organization promoting a global transition to renewable energy that's set to launch on Monday. IRENA, which already boasts some 80 member countries—including the oil-rich United Arab Emirates—describes itself as the "first intergovernmental organisation to solely concentrate on renewable energy and offer support to industrialised and developing countries alike."

These goals, though, set the group apart from the far more prominent International Energy Agency (IEA), an organization open solely to OECD countries that deals in both conventional (oil, coal, nuclear) and renewable energy alike. Some critics say the IEA is unduly biased toward the former: The agency recently came under fire from the Berlin-based Energy Watch Group for publishing "misleading" statistics about the generative potential of renewable energy sources. But the IEA still has plenty of sway with Number 10 Downing, and is skeptical about the new organization—which may explain why Britain has yet to sign on. The big prize for IRENA, meanwhile, would be getting the United States aboard—the question is whether the Obama administration would be just as reluctant to offend the IEA.

--James Martin