The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has warned that the world is currently off track to meet its climate goals and prevent the worst impact of the climate emergency. IRENA said that significant work would need to be done to redirect the course of the existing track. Not only will this require more ambitious climate policies from countries worldwide, but a significant boost in investment will be needed as well as global support for a green transition in lower-income countries.
IRENA published a report in March outlining the current climate situation, taking into account new climate policies and action being taken by the major world powers. The report found that an extra $35 trillion of funding will be needed in transitional technologies by the end of the decade to reduce global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement targets. The organisation acknowledged the progress of recent years, mainly in the power sector where renewables now account for 40 percent of installed power globally. However, the green energy pipeline is far below the amount required to stick to the 1.5oC limit.
To achieve the targets required to limit climate change, renewable energy deployment levels must increase from some 3,000 gigawatts today to over 10,000 GW by 2030. Most of the progress to date has been concentrated in a few specific regions, with China, the EU and the U.S. accounting for two-thirds of all new green energy in 2022. Meanwhile, many developing economies are falling behind, and many continue to rely on fossil fuels as their main source of energy. Despite big promises from the world’s richest economies to support the development of green energy in lower-income countries following the COP climate summits, little investment has been seen.
Experts worry that too much money is still being pumped into fossil fuel projects, with the risk of leaving stranded assets as the world transitions to green. Worse still, the availability of fossil fuels thanks to new developments could lead to continued reliance on oil, gas, and coal and could deter companies from investing in renewable energy projects. This is perhaps seen nowhere more so than in the natural gas sector, which has experienced a resurge in the last year. As the movement away from Russian gas highlighted the West’s reliance on Russian energy, the U.S. and Europe quickly looked elsewhere for their gas supply and developed plans for new LNG infrastructure to ensure their energy security. But many think that the move reflects an overreliance on gas rather than renewable alternatives.
The IRENA report came shortly after the publication of a landmark UN Synthesis Report last month, which urged governments to act more radically on climate change. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested that current action is not enough to prevent a severe climate crisis, particularly if countries continue to emit vast quantities of greenhouse gasses. The findings were based on an analysis of 10,000 pages of research from six assessment reports. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres explained“The climate time bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity.” Guterres added “As it shows, the 1.5-degree limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action.”
Following the report, the EU unveiled plans to ramp up its 2030 renewable energy targets. This move is not only in response to the need to prevent a devastating climate situation but also to ensure the region’s mid-term energy security by reducing its reliance on Russian energy. The European Council and Parliament reached a provisional deal to source 42.5 percent of the EU’s energy from renewable sources by 2030. This replaces the 2018 target of a 32 percent share. The proposal is still awaiting approval from member states.
To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the EU aims to cut net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by the end of the decade. So far, the region has been using the “Fit for 55” package to ensure it introduces climate and energy policies that align with its climate targets. However, the abrupt disruption of the region’s gas supply, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russian energy, has demonstrated the need to accelerate the rollout of renewable energy.
Recent reports on the progress of the green transition and its impact on climate change have shown that not enough is being done around the globe to avoid a climate crisis. While many countries have set decarbonisation and renewable energy targets, many are not acting fast enough to meet these goals, and several low-income countries do not have the resources to pursue a green transition. While more ambitious goals from the EU are a step in the right direction, stronger climate policies and more significant funding are required at the global level to ensure that we meet climate goals and avoid a crisis.
By Felicity Bradstock for Oilprice.com
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So what is expected to happen if global heating exceeds 1.5 °C?
It is claimed by the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15) published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 8 October 2018 that with global warming of 1.5 °C there would be increased risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth. However, such claims can’t be proven until global heating hits 1.5 °C. Therefore, the report is at best precautionary rather than definite. Moreover, many Nobel-prize scientists have contested its findings and its existential threats and warnings.
If we go back in history to when records started we could easily find that the very same rising sea levels, wild-fires, heatwaves, and extreme weather conditions had also happened years before. Environmental science has yet to establish unequivocally whether these were caused by human beings alone using fossil fuels or as a result of natural developments or both.
However, some distinguished scientists don’t believe that man’s actions including the use of fossil fuels are solely behind climate change and global warming. For instance, Robert B. Laughlin, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics says in an essay titled: ”What the Earth Knows” that “what it knows is this: What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.”
Damaging this old earth is, Laughlin says, “easier to imagine than it is to accomplish.” There have been mass volcanic explosions, meteor impacts, “and all manners of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor.
Therefore, spending $35 trillion (bigger than China’s GDP which is the largest in the world based on PPP) on improving sanitation and health care in underdeveloped countries , providing them with water and electricity, education, wealth-creation projects and infrastructure will benefit humanity far more than wasting such volumes of money on projections that may or may never happen.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert