Emissions reductions generated by renewable energy, coupled with improvements in energy efficiency, must be at the heart of any effort to limit global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius, according to a report released today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). REthinking Energy 2015 – Renewable Energy and Climate, finds that achieving a 36 per cent share of renewable energy by 2030 would result in half of all emission reductions needed to maintain a two degree pathway. Energy efficiency measures could supply the rest.
“The energy sector accounts for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore must be the focus of climate action” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General. “Transitioning rapidly to a future fuelled by renewable energy, accompanied by increasing energy efficiency, is the most effective way to limit global temperature rise. This transition is underway but it must be accelerated if we are to limit global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius.”
Scaling up renewable energy to the level required to meet global climate objectives would contribute to at least 12 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by increasing energy access, improving quality of life and reducing poverty says the report. At present, the sector employs 7.7 million people worldwide, creating more jobs per unit of electricity generated than coal or natural gas. If a 36 per cent share of renewables is achieved, employment levels could exceed 24 million jobs by 2030.
To achieve a 36 per cent share of total energy, the uptake of renewable energy would need to increase six-fold from current levels. This would require that global annual investment nearly double, to exceed $500 billion in the period up to 2020, and more than triple to exceed $900 billion from 2021 to 2030. To help achieve this, the report outlines five actions for a sustainable energy future including: strengthening policy commitments, mobilising investments, building institutional capacity, linking renewables to Sustainable Development Goals and enhancing regional engagement.
“The strong business case for renewable energy has made the energy transition inevitable” added Mr. Amin. “It is now not a question of if the world ultimately transitions to a renewable energy future, but rather whether it will do so quickly enough. At the upcoming climate talks in Paris, it will be up to countries to commit to strong targets, and in turn, give a strong political signal to catalyse further investments in renewable energy.”
REthinking Energy – Renewable Energy and Climate is the second edition in the series outlining progress in the transition to a sustainable energy future. The report was presented at IRENA’s 10th Council meeting, taking place from 22 to 24 November in Abu Dhabi.