4 months ago

Climate Action 2014-2015


MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION China increased its PV capacity in 2013 to 13GW, about one-third of the world market These developments have not gone unnoticed, and the process of transformation has already begun. Renewables last year accounted for more than half of new global power capacity, and investment in new renewable power capacity has outpaced investment in new fossil-based power generation for three years running. Governments everywhere are beginning to act. China increased its installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity in 2013 to 13GW, about one-third of the world market. It now accounts for half of the global hydro and PV market, and hosts 90 per cent of world solar thermal and biogas capacity. And there are plans to accelerate this transition further. Regulation in the US is acting as an effective brake on coal investments. Italy already produces 8 per cent of its electricity from solar PV. Germany has raised the share of renewables in power generation from 5 to 30 per cent. A growing number of island nations have completely converted to renewable power, or will do so in the coming five years. The shift to renewable energy is effectively underway. And the more we invest, the cheaper it gets. This allows us to cut the Gordian knot of climate diplomacy, in terms of who pays and who benefits. With renewable energy, we all invest, and we all benefit. The stalemate between developed and developing countries disappears when the best route to reducing carbon dioxide emissions is also the best strategy for economic growth. So why worry? If renewable energy is so obviously the solution, will markets not take care of the transition organically? The unfortunate answer is that, if business continues as usual, they will not. THE REAL ENERGY PICTURE Unless governments and policy-makers take urgent action, catastrophic climate change will be unavoidable. IRENA forecasts show that instead of doubling the share of renewables, we will reach only 21 per cent, an increase of just three percentage points and far from sufficient to mitigate the trend of global warming. There are three main reasons for this worrying scenario. Firstly, there is not a level playing field. The world currently subsidises fossil fuels to the tune of more than US$500 billion a year, and that number is rising. This dwarfs support for renewable energy by a factor of five. At the same time, we do not adequately account for the cost of pollution on our balance sheets. By giving fossil fuels a free pass for the damage they cause to our health and the environment, we are effectively subsidising them even further: eighteen times more than we subsidise renewables, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The second reason is that too much attention is focused on power generation. Countless column inches are given to how we get our electricity. But more than three-quarters of the energy we use is in the form of heating and transport fuels. Much more attention needs to be focused on these areas: green buildings, electric cars, biofuels for industry and so forth. Thirdly, a world living on renewables looks very different from the world 56

MITIGATION AND ADAPTATION THE NEED TO START RIGHT AWAY It is not yet clear what successful business models will look like in a renewable energy system. A higher share of variable power, distributed more widely, demands new management systems, as well as smart metering and advanced storage. It requires us to build more interconnectors in upgraded grids. And it needs new forms of finance, which fully take account of the risk of stranded assets and the costs of pollution. All of these are coming, but not as fast as we need. To speed them up requires a sustained and committed push, backed by clear, consistent objectives, and a lot of planning. Because of the long lead times in building new infrastructure, this planning needs to begin today. In order to stop climate change, governments have a duty to accelerate the energy transition and start addressing misconceptions and misinformation about the economics of clean power. Renewable energy advocates need to explain far more clearly the costs and the benefits of switching, and be ready take on those lobbies who would see the climate destroyed in their effort to maintain the status quo. we have today. Raising the share of renewables is not just a matter of replacing coal power stations with wind turbines. It requires a complete rethink of the energy system. Where traditionally we have generated power in a large centralised utility, renewable energy is distributed, and the flow of electricity goes both ways. Many consumers are also becoming producers. New players are entering the "The paradigm shift to modern renewable energy will happen, one way or another. But as of now, it won’t happen fast enough." market, including retailers, technology companies, community organisations and private individuals. This has caused incumbent utilities to increasingly worry about their future. Some are responding by trying to maintain the status quo; others are fighting to keep their subsidies. This puts a brake on the global energy transition. URGENT STEPS TO PROSPERITY The world has switched energy systems before, and in doing so has enjoyed great leaps in prosperity. The paradigm shift to modern renewable energy will happen, one way or another. But as of now, it won’t happen fast enough to avoid serious damage to our climate. We need to speed things up. We are extremely fortunate, in that the falling cost of renewable energy has given us a choice. We can avert catastrophic climate change, and we can start by doubling the global share of renewable energy by 2030. In so doing, we will also create jobs, lower healthcare costs, and spread economic prosperity more widely. But to make that choice is not easy. It requires urgent, bold steps, from leaders willing to take the short-term hits from those who would rather carry on with business as usual. It will be a battle. But it is a battle we simply cannot afford to lose. Adnan Z Amin was elected as Director- General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in April 2011. A Kenyan national, he is a development economist specialising in sustainable development, with over 25 years of experience in the fields of international environment and sustainable development policy. He served as Head of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) Secretariat. Mr Amin also served as the Executive Director of the Secretariat of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence. Previously, he had been Director of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Special Representative of the UNEP Executive Director. He played the lead role in supporting the ministeriallevel intergovernmental process to review International Environmental Governance and UNEP’s participation in the World Summit on Sustainable Development. He has also served from 2000 until 2006 as a Trustee and member of the Board of Directors of the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity. With over 130 states and the European Union as members, and active participation by many more signatories and applicants for membership around the world, IRENA helps countries achieve their clean energy potential and promotes renewable resources and technologies as the key to a sustainable future. 57