Renewables in 7, 6, 5, 4, …

19 May 2016

To truly kickstart the transition towards 100% renewables by 2050 (at the latest), governments will need to increase global annual renewable energy investments four-fold. That means US$1.3 trillion by 2030, according to IRENA.

You might be thinking: “Whoa, that’s a lot, too much!”. But really, it’s fine — especially when the alternative is taken into account.  The annual costs of climate damages and deadly air pollution from fossil fuels would amount to $4 trillion — costs that mainly would impact the poor.

Similar investment growth is needed for energy efficiency, in all sectors. During the same period, investments in fossil fuels and nuclear need to decline by more than 50% from the present figure of almost $1 trillion. This is twice the size of the combined financing of renewables and energy efficiency.

To grow renewables to 100%, we need to start a few key things both simultaneously and immediately, well before 2020. Without further adieu, ECO presents The 7 Steps Towards The Renewable Future:

1) Governments need to regulate, legislate and incentivise the massive shift to renewables. This requires targets, steering and legislation in the financial sector.

2) Rich countries must significantly increase the support to poor countries for their own “Energiewende”. This should come from public and private sources.

3) Countries will need to rely on a range of renewable energy sources to realise a renewable-powered future. Wind and solar will dominate, but other sources such as geothermal, select hydropower and biomass, have a role to play too. It’s important to note that hydropower and biomass should only be deployed in a responsible and sustainable manner with respect to human rights. We have an obligation to leverage our renewable energy sources wisely and consider more than just the climate benefits of a particular source in order to reduce the risk of harmful impacts and unintended consequences.

4) Countries cannot rely on erratic markets, roller-coasting energy costs and fuel prices to get renewables in the system. Not only do countries need to stop new coal use, but they also need to start phasing out existing coal plants and avoid a lock-in into new natural gas – irrespective of the short-term economics.

5) Countries need to speed up alternatives to oil use, particularly in the transport and heating sector, such as renewable-based vehicle electrification and expansion of electrified public transport.

6) Policy regulation needs to include significant enhancement of energy efficiency and conservation across all consumption sectors and products. It is inconceivable to reach a fully renewable-based energy and industry system if the world does not harvest the many options and technologies already available on the market.

7) Advocacy and planning on the move to 100% renewables needs to include the many non-climate benefits of doing so. Avoiding deadly air pollution and health damage as well as erratic fuel import prices, while reducing manufacturing costs, enhancing water conservation and providing many more jobs than fossil fuels or nuclear, are all additional drivers for investing in renewables. And it all has to happen at a record speed if we want to limit irreversible climate damage.

ECO invites everyone to work together to make this happen. The Paris Agreement provides an excellent platform, but it is not a silver bullet. Actions have to happen everywhere by everyone.

Renewables in 7, 6, 5, 4, …

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