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IRENA: Renewables and energy efficiency can put world on 2C pathway

Written by EMS

Industry body publishes new report detailing how renewables could meet 36 per cent of global energy share by 2030

Renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency gains can deliver the steep emissions cuts required to put the world on a path to less than 2C of warming this century.

That is the conclusion of a new report from the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which suggests it is feasible for renewables to meet 36 per cent of global energy demand by 2030, delivering half of all the emissions reductions required to put the world on a path to the internationally agreed goal of limiting temperature increases to 2C above pre-industrial levels. It adds that energy efficiency measures can deliver the remaining emissions reductions, potentially reducing the need for alternative low carbon technologies.

“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, in a statement. “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 under way, but it must be accelerated if we are to limit global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius.”

The report offers a significantly more optimistic outlook for the renewables sector than a recent World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which still predicted renewables would take 60 per cent of all investment in new energy capacity through to 2040, and would replace coal as the largest single source of energy by the early 2030s.

IRENA argues the uptake of renewable energy can increase six-fold through to 2030, to command a 36 per cent share of global energy demand, driven by rapid cost reductions and supportive government policies.

It predicts that such a rapid deployment of renewables would require a doubling of investment in the sector to more than $500bn in the period up to 2020, followed by a further $900bn of investment between 2021 and 2030.

However, it adds that this investment would not only lead to deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, but would also see renewable energy employment increase from 7.7 million people globally currently to 24 million people by 2030.

Ahead of next week’s Paris Climate Summit, governments are debating how best to meet their emission reduction pledges, with many opting for a mix of renewables, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage technologies, nuclear, and the use of gas to replace coal as a so-called ‘bridging mechanism’ on the way to full decarbonisation.

However, Amin argued that the rapid reduction in the cost of renewables in recent years means it is likely to dominate energy mixes around the world in the coming decades. “The strong business case for renewable energy has made the energy transition inevitable,” he said. “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.”

The IRENA report sets out five recommendations for governments looking to increase investment in renewable energy, calling on ministers to strengthen policy commitments to support renewable energy deployment, mobilise investment in renewables, build institutional capacity to support the sector, better link renewables projects to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and enhance regional co-operation.

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