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Renewables and Climate Change

In 2020 government elections and global politics are increasingly being influenced by the “Climate Change” debate. Globally, many people are increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change and are calling on their national leaders and international institutions to take decisive action to counter the impact of global warming.  

A transformation of the global energy system requires engagement at all levels of society. This applies to both public and private sectors, communities, regions and ultimately down to individual citizen. We are all part of this eco-system, and ultimately all our actions count!

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), two-thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originate from the energy sector. As a result, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has called for an aggressive revision of the global energy system, with a particular emphasis on the adoption of renewable energy.

There have been several high profile policy announcements since by various governments and regional blocs calling for the shift towards a “Green Economy”. This is a move which will undoubtedly benefit the environment, and act as a major boost towards growth in various aspects of the renewable sector. It will similarly become a significant source of employment to many in the post Covid19 world. With Spain alone expecting renewables and related industries to generate up to 350,000 permanent and temporary jobs in the coming years.

However, I submit that there is still much work to do! A major target is to try limit the rise of average global temperatures to “well below 2°C”. Consequentially, whilst the policies which have been implemented to date are undeniably a step in the right direction, they are clearly not enough to mitigate the catastrophic effects climate change is already having on our societies.

According to analyses performed by IRENA, it was determined that the rapid adoption of renewable energy strategies coupled with improved energy efficiency would create a pathway with the potential of achieving at least a 90% reduction in energy related carbon-dioxide emissions. 

Furthermore, the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming as released in 2018, estimates that human activities have already caused a roughly 1.0°C increase in global warming. Consequentially, without drastic action, this number will only continue to rise and cause inconceivable economic damage to us all. This is coupled with human migration which will result and the subsequent political instability.  To emphasize this point, the World Bank observed that climate change, if left unchecked, will result in wider disruptions to both households and firms at a cost of more than US$390 billion per annum. The institution similarly went on to observe that by 2050, up to 143 million people globally could be forced to relocate in order to escape the adverse climatic conditions in their own countries should concrete action not be taken. 

I would strongly recommend readers who have the time to peruse the “Climate Change and Renewable Energy” report of 2019 by IRENA. I will attach the link at the end of this article for ease of reference. It is an excellent document, penned by an organisation who performs invaluable work for the renewable sector globally.

With the above in mind, I would like to offer the reader a quick thought exercise. We have all seen the terrible impact Covid19 has had on our global society and economy. A virus has been able to undermine our whole way of life in a surprisingly short amount of time. With this mental image, I would ask you all to now consider what type of impact aggressive climate change can have? Rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, failing crops to mention but a few. It is a truly frightening thought!

In conclusion, I acknowledge that profit is a major driver for much of the renewable energy industry. As it reasonably should be for any private sector pursuit. However, I submit that our role is exceptionally important in driving the necessary change. Our societies are at the crossroads. Climate change is an existential threat to us all. Let us all do what we can to make the world a little cleaner, a little greener and just a little more sustainable. Let us all try make a world we will be proud to hand over to our children one day!

Written by Gareth Foulkes-Jones

References;

1)   IRENA (2019) Climate Change and Renewable Energy, https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2019/Jun/IRENA_G20_climate_sustainability_2019.pdf

Discussions

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 2, 2020

I acknowledge that profit is a major driver for much of the renewable energy industry. As it reasonably should be for any private sector pursuit. However, I submit that our role is exceptionally important in driving the necessary change. Our societies are at the crossroads. Climate change is an existential threat to us all. Let us all do what we can to make the world a little cleaner, a little greener and just a little more sustainable. 

Profit is the driver-- and if we're looking to leave the energy transition completely to private business, then we have to recognize that progress might be a bit slower. When it comes to driving societal and common-good change, businesses will do so when it aligns with profits as well-- which is why having regulatory oversight into these topics, whether through a cap and trade or other measure, is necessary. Governments are the ones who can and must put what is 'right' for the future above private profits. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 2, 2020

"I would strongly recommend readers who have the time to peruse the “Climate Change and Renewable Energy” report of 2019 by IRENA. I will attach the link at the end of this article for ease of reference. It is an excellent document, penned by an organisation who performs invaluable work for the renewable sector globally."

Though IRENA's recommendation is understandable - it would help to keep its members employed, after all - I strongly disagree with it, Gareth. IRENA ignores both the historical success of nuclear energy and abysmal failure of renewables to reduce carbon emissions - either accidentally, or intentionally.

You write:

"Aided by FiTs, renewable energy community projects have significantly increased in Japan following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster (The Beam Magazine, 2017)."

Encouraging news, if our goal was to start new renewable energy projects. It's not however - it's to reduce carbon emissions. Ironically, since the Fukushima accident in March 2011, restarted nuclear reactors in Japan have created more clean energy than all renewables combined - ever.

Today, nuclear energy provides 50% of energy in the Ukraine - home of Chernobyl. Why residents of foreign countries are petrified of nuclear fission, and those of the countries where the only significant accidents have occurred aren't, I have no idea. Maybe we could learn from them?

Gareth Foulkes-Jones's picture

Thank Gareth for the Post!

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