The COVID-19 crisis offers an unexpected opportunity for countries across the world to decouple their economies from fossil fuels and accelerate the shift to renewable energy sources, says the World Energy Transitions Outlook report, brought out by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Previewed at the virtual Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD 2021), which began on Tuesday, the report proposes energy transition solutions for the narrow pathway available to contain the rise of temperature to 1.5°C and halt global warming.
Highlighting the need for countries to change direction with careful recalibrating of stimulus packages and recovery measures, Director General of IRENA Francesco La Camera said, “The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the cost of tying economies to the fate of fuels prone to price shocks. The energy system, along with the rest of the economy, has been shaken to the core. Amid this, renewables have shown remarkable resilience.”
“The emerging energy system must promote a more inclusive and equitable world, with resilience against economic and environmental shocks. Governments and investors now have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to bring about lasting change,”Mr. La Camera said.
The document highlights the need for countries around the world to accelerate their efforts toward the energy transition without delay.
Mr. La Camera said, “The window of opportunity to achieve the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal is closing fast. The recent trends show that the gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing but widening. We are heading in the wrong direction.”
“The IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C released in 2018 clearly indicates that a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels is required by 2030. However, emissions have continued to increase, except in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a dramatic economic slowdown. What is at stake is the ability to avoid further irreversible warming with profound economic and humanitarian consequences.”
IRENA observes the emergence of a new energy system based on renewable technologies and complemented by green hydrogen and modern bioenergy. It estimates that by 2050, 90% of total electricity needs would be supplied by renewables, followed by 6% from natural gas and the remaining from nuclear. The agency has identified 30 innovations for the integration of wind and solar PV in power systems. It stresses the need to focus on the expansion of emerging technologies such as green hydrogen.
The document notes that investors and financial markets are anticipating the energy transition and already allocating capital away from fossil fuels and towards energy transition technologies, such as renewables.
Inaugurating the BETD conference, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Mass and Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier called for global cooperation in energy transition to help the world achieve climate targets. “We are the last generation in the history of the world that can prevent climate collapse,” said Mr. Maas. “We are anything but powerless. Therein lies the opportunity of this century.”
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Natake, who delivered the keynote address, created a flutter by criticising world leaders.
“It is the leaders who have failed us, not the young people. It is the leaders who had ignored the scientists and science and failed time and again to treat the climate crisis as a real crisis, Ms. Natake said. She criticised the leaders for continuing to invest in fossil fuel commitments, saying, “We cannot eat coal and we cannot drink oil.”