IRENA: Renewables set to deliver climate solution

In a new report, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says emission reductions from renewables, coupled with energy efficiency improvements, have to be at the heart of any effort to limit a global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

REthinking Energy 2015 – Renewable Energy and Climate finds that achieving a 36% share of renewable energy by 2030 would result in half of all emission reductions needed to maintain a 2 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 IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “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 2 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, according to the report.

IRENA notes that the renewable energy sector employs 7.7 million people worldwide, creating more jobs per unit of electricity generated than coal or natural gas. Achieving a 36% share of renewables would also provide a major job boost for the sector, with employment levels likely exceeding 24 million jobs by 2030, the organization adds.

To achieve a 36% share of total energy, the uptake of renewable energy would need to increase six-fold from current levels. To that end, global annual investment would need to nearly double, exceeding $500 billion in the next five years and more than triple to exceed $900 billion from 2021 to 2030.

Reaching the goal

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
  • Enhancing regional engagement

“The strong business case for renewable energy has made the energy transition inevitable,” Amin says. “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 a series outlining progress in the transition to a sustainable energy future. The report was presented at IRENA’s 10th Council meeting, which took place Nov. 22 – 24 in Abu Dhabi.