Nations around the world can make breakthroughs in the shift to renewable energy, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said at a joint event on December 11, 2019, held at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid, Spain. Such a move would drastically cut emissions and help the world get on track to meet the Paris climate goals and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Action by countries to stop the continued progression of fossil fuels is possible, UNDP and IRENA said. Renewable energy deployment would have to accelerate six-fold by 2030 if the world is to achieve the goal of cutting global carbon emissions by 45 percent and keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, IRENA said.
In September, UNDP launched a new initiative called the ‘Climate Promise’, vowing to support as many countries as possible to revise and submit enhanced climate pledges – known as Nationally Determined Contributions – or NDCs, by 2020.
Working with the NDC partnership and other partners, UNDP will support 100 countries to accelerate the enhancement of national climate pledges by 2020, building on its climate action portfolio in over 140 countries. Energy is a crucial part of this work and IRENA will provide the necessary knowledge, and support countries to accelerate energy transitions driven by renewable energy.
To date, 78 countries are drawing upon UNDP’s experience in disaster risk reduction, gender, health, and nature-based solutions.
Shifting to renewables will create far-reaching development impacts, triggering an economic stimulus and creating millions of jobs around the world, not to mention widespread health and other welfare benefits. Renewable energy should be an integral part of countries’ climate pledges. We recognise the challenges, but this transition is achievable. At UNDP we stand ready to support countries to take bolder action on climate change, said Achim Steiner, the Administrator of UNDP.
According to IRENA, out of the 156 NDCs submitted to date, 135 countries mention renewables but most are underutilising renewables to raise their ambition. The agency also estimates that over US$1.7 trillion would be needed by 2030 annually to implement adequate renewable energy targets, though much of that funding could come as a result of eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.
There is no sustainable development without renewable energy. It’s possible to accelerate the low-carbon energy transition and achieve sustainable development, thereby creating inclusive and prosperous economies, Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA said at the Madrid Climate Summit.
In September, both partners launched a global campaign called #ItsPossible, engaging policy-makers and investors to join a push for renewables in countries around the world. The campaign will carry over into the next year.
The first round of NDCs inadequate
During the joint event at COP25, IRENA also launched a new report ‘NDCs in 2020: Advancing Renewables in the Power Sector and Beyond’.
IRENA highlights that countries need to be increasingly ambitious in their pledges to scale up renewables and cut energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The first round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) pledged under the Paris Agreement have proven inadequate to meet climate goals.
The new NDC round starting in 2020 represents an important chance to strengthen targets for renewables. The report underlines the opportunity to address the climate threat, decarbonise energy use and simultaneously achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Among the findings:
- More extensive renewable power deployment, amounting to 7.7 TW (or 3.3 times the current global capacity), could be achieved cost-effectively and would bring considerable socio-economic benefits.
- Existing NDC power targets overlook 59 percent of the potential for renewable electricity deployment in line with the Paris Agreement by 2030, according to IRENA’s REmap analysis.
- NDC power targets even fall increasingly short of national strategies and plans. Aligning the next round of NDCs closely to those real-world targets could increase global renewable power capacity to 5.2 TW (or 2.2 times current global capacity) by 2030.
- To date, only 85 countries included unconditional renewable power pledges in their current NDCs – compared to 135 with non-NDC domestic renewable power targets (either national or sub-national).
- NDCs thus far do not reflect the actual growth of renewable power, with global capacity growing by 8.6 percent per year since 2015.
- Implementing current NDCs would only translate into annual capacity growth of 4 percent for 2015–2030, even though annual renewable power growth already averaged 5.9 percent in 2010–2014. With current deployment trends, the 3.2 TW foreseen in current NDC power targets for 2030 could be reached by 2022.
- Power sector decarbonisation alone will not suffice to meet Paris Agreement objectives. Rather, the entire energy sector must undergo a profound transformation through the adoption of renewables and energy efficiency measures, as well as increased electrification of end uses.