COP21: Global Solar Council launches with call to end all trade barriers by 2020

The COP21 UN Climate Change Summit in Paris saw the launch today of the world’s first dedicated and unified body for the solar industry, the Global Solar Council (GSC).

Amid a backdrop of slow but encouraging progress on climate change at the wider COP21 summit, the GSC launched with a clear message from a guest speaker at a landmark solar-industry side event: collaboration and the removal of trade barriers is key if solar is to fulfill its promise of changing the earth’s energy landscape.

Among the speakers at the launch of the GSC was Canadian Solar CEO Shawn Qu, who said that he believes that the GSC’s two chief goals should be ending the use of kerosene lamps worldwide by 2025, and pushing to remove all solar trade barriers globally by 2020.

Qu was a guest speaker at the Global Solar Council launch and while he does not speak directly on behalf of the Council, he and Canadian Solar have specifically singled out tackling kerosene use for lighting as a worthy early target for the organization. The CEO is also personally championing the removal of solar tariffs among Council members.

“Every country that participates in solar has its own strength,” Qu said. “Some, like Germany and Switzerland, are skilled in making the machinery required; others are good at production and distribution, and some regions are great at system integration.

“Only with the free flow of products, technology and expertise – unhindered by trade barriers – can solar continue to reduce costs and play its role in the fight against climate change.”

Qu called on governments to work with the GSC (which includes 17 solar associations from around the world, including Solar Power Europe, SEIA, MESIA and Germany’s BSW) to remove all trade barriers within five years, stating that the only way to tackle climate change is for the world to agree on a global commitment to free trade.

The GSC was launched just days after it was confirmed that the European Commission (EC) would be extending solar dumping duties and the minimum import price (MIP) on solar modules imported into Europe for at least 15 months.

Alliance the overall message

Inaugural GSC chairman Bruce Douglas revealed that the GSC hopes to work with the Modi-backed International Solar Alliance to spearhead the movement to make solar power “the principle source of electricity generation globally”, and that message was underlined by the signing of an MoU between the GSC and the Terrawatt Initiative – a program aimed at meeting the International Solar Alliance’s objective of adding 1 TW of solar capacity globally by 2030.

Also present at the launch was Bertrand Piccard, co-founder and pilot of the Solar Impulse aircraft, which is currently halfway through a round-the-world solar flight. Piccard acknowledged that the attendant audience was “100% pro-solar”, and urged: “Your job begins when this conference finishes. You have to get out there and spread this message that solar power is ready to change the world."

John Smirnow, the GSC secretary-general, had a similar message in his opening address. “Solar has arrived!” he said. “The goal now is to encourage the wide-scale adoption of solar energy through cooperation, education and training.”

Speaking to pv magazine at the launch, GSC co-chairman Gianni Chianetta said that such a global alliance has been eight years in the making, and the looming COP21 summit gave the GSC the push it needed to launch.

“The first goal of the GSC is to bring the value of solar energy to a wider audience, and to make solar a leader in the energy mix, more quickly than the pace we have seen so far.

“Solar is the most democratic energy source. And it is important that solar speaks with a global voice because we need to have a common vision, worldwide.

"The target of solar is not only to reduce the use of fossil fuels, but to increase the use of solar in other complementary sectors, such as transportation, desalination, etc," Chianetta added. "This means working with all of the big organizations that are aligned with our target, particularly in storage, which is a very important sector for the solar industry.”

The GSC launch took place alongside the IRENA RE-Energizing the Future Conference, a side event of COP21 that sought to address what more governments and big business can do in helping to nurture further innovation and investment in renewable energy worldwide.

This article was altered on Monday December 7 to reflect that Shaun Qu is not a board member of the Global Solar Council and therefore does not speak on behalf of the Council.