Published today (9 April), the body’s new report, entitled “Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050”, states that pushing the renewables revolution and using clean power to electrify carbon-intense solutions and sectors could deliver more than 3 quarters of the energy-related discharge reductions needed to meet global climate goals by mid-century.
The report bases this decision on IRENA’s “Remap Case” scenario, which would need all stakeholders in the global energy system to align themselves with the Paris Agreement’s 2C vector as soon as possible, with a specific focus on the deployment of renewable energy and efficiency technologies. In this scenario, IRENA claims that renewables’ overall share of the energy mix would grow six points faster than popular rates, leading annual global energy-related CO2 discharges to peak in 2020 and decrease by 90% by 2050, against a 2018 baseline.
In contrast, the report’s “Reference Case”, which examines current and planned national and foreign policies, targets and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), is expected to result in CO2 emissions from energy waiting at much the same level as they are today by 2050. This plateauing, IRENA claims, risks putting the world on a pathway of 2.6C or higher by mid-century – a trajectory which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted could worsen the risk of water deficiency, extreme weather events and droughts for millions of people.
IRENA claims that moving from the Reference Case trajectory to a Remap Case is still possible. The report states that technologies to make this transition possible do exist and are deployable at scale, but that national and local governments are “lagging” in supporting them.
Specifically, the body recommends that policymakers should implement “more aggressive” climate, renewable energy and energy efficiency policies and targets which are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda and therefore also incorporate socio-economic benefits. Zero-carbon, and like in online slots long-term strategies will be the most effective, the report states.
The document additionally states that governments are not doing enough to enable “systemic and holistic innovation” in the energy sector, by aligning policies with funding measures and other support for the private sector. Key focus areas for this agenda should be fostering smarter energy systems through digitalization and uniting end-use sectors such as heating, cooling and transport to spur the creation of low-carbon power grids.
“The energy change is gaining momentum, but it must accelerate even quicker,” IRENA’s director-general Francesco La Camera said.
“Urgent action on the ground at all levels is important, in particular unfastening the investments needed to further increase the momentum of this energy conversion. Speed and forward-looking leadership will be critical – the world in 2060 depends on the current decisions we take today. The UN’s 2030 SDG agenda and the review of internal climate pledges under the Paris Agreement are events for raising the level of enthusiasm.”
The report’s findings are similar to those of a separate study issued by Lancaster University this week, which discovered that large-scale renewables and energy efficiency schemes would be far more effective at alleviating climate change than complementing fossil fuel production and high-carbon technologies with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
A just transition
This estimate factors in savings from the mitigation of climate disasters, as well as the expansion of green economy works and the decline in fossil-fuel related roles, with IRENA claiming that the number of “green collar jobs” created under the change would be “more than sufficient” to withdraw former fossil fuel workers falling into unemployment.
The report additionally calls the costs and returns of the low-carbon energy changes, stating that current and proposed policies will see the global power sector receive $95trn of cumulative investment leading up to 2050. In order to achieve the Remap situation, this figure would need to be scaled by a further 17% – equivalent to $18trn of investment, IRENA claims. In this trajectory, the body prophesies that every dollar spent on the energy development would pay off up to $7, largely in avoided healthcare expenses, energy subsidies and climate damages.
The findings come at a time when the idea of a “just transition” is starting to gain traction among all energy sector stakeholders, from policymakers and corporates to members of the public. On a scale, new research by Imperial College London recently found that the UK’s green policy frameworks could create a “two-tier” market. The study, commissioned by Drax Group, concluded the regions such as the North of England and East Midlands are not getting the financial and social interests of the low-carbon transition in the way that London and the South East are.
A similar line of argument has also been asserted by think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which estimates as many as 56,000 positions could be created in the North of England’s power sector alone by 2035 – but that around 30,000 job losses in the coal, oil, and gas applications are expected during the same period. So, The Aldersgate Group has previously made calls for readers to implement policy structures which “champion investment” in the North’s uptake of low-carbon projects.