New York ●
Mon July 4, 2022
Nero was accused of playing the violin while Rome burned. Today, some leaders are doing worse. They throw oil on the fire. Literally.
As the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reverberates around the world, some countries’ response to the growing energy crisis has been to double consumption of fossil fuels – pouring billions more into the coal, oil and gas that fuel our growing climate emergency. .
Meanwhile, all climate indicators continue to break records, predicting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unbearable temperatures across large swaths of the planet. Our world is facing climate chaos.
New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is illusory. Fossil fuels are not the answer and never will be. We can see the damage we cause to the planet and our societies. It’s in the news every day, and no one is immune.
Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energies are the answer to limit climate change and strengthen energy security. If we had invested earlier and massively in renewable energies, we would not find ourselves again at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.
But the battle for a rapid and fair energy transition is not fought on an equal footing. Investors continue to support fossil fuels and governments continue to distribute billions of dollars in coal, oil and gas subsidies, some US$11 million every minute.
There’s a word for prioritizing short-term relief over long-term well-being. Addiction. We are still dependent on fossil fuels. For the health of our societies and the planet, we must stop. Now.
The only real path to energy security, stable electricity prices, prosperity and a livable planet is to move away from polluting fossil fuels and accelerate the energy transition based on renewables.
To this end, I have called on the governments of the Group of 20 to dismantle the coal infrastructure, with complete phase-out by 2030 for countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and 2040 for all others.
I urged financial actors to abandon fossil fuel financing and invest in renewable energy. And I’ve come up with a five-point plan to boost renewable energy around the world.
First, we need to make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we need to improve global access to supply chains for renewable energy technology components and raw materials.
In 2020, the world installed 5 gigawatts (GW) of battery storage. We need 600 GW of storage capacity by 2030. Clearly, we need a global coalition to get there. Shipping bottlenecks and supply chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hampering the deployment of these technologies and materials just when we have the most of them. need.
Third, we need to reduce the red tape that holds back solar and wind projects. We need expedited approvals and more effort to modernize power grids. In the European Union, it takes eight years to approve a wind farm, and 10 years in the United States. In the Republic of Korea, onshore wind projects require 22 permits issued by eight different ministries.
Fourth, the world must shift energy subsidies away from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.
And fifth, we need to triple investment in renewable energy. This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks. All must step up and dramatically increase investment in renewable energy.
We need more urgency from all world leaders. We are already perilously close to hitting the 1.5 degree Celsius limit that science says is the maximum level of warming to avoid the worst climate impacts. To keep 1.5 alive, we must reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by mid-century. But current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14% during this decade. It’s a catastrophe.
The answer lies in renewable energy – for climate action, for energy security and to provide clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it. Renewables are a triple win.
No one has an excuse to reject a renewable energy revolution. As oil and gas prices hit record highs, renewables are getting cheaper. The cost of solar power and batteries has dropped 85% over the past decade. The cost of wind energy has fallen by 55%. And investing in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
Of course, renewable energy is not the only answer to the climate crisis. Nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential. The same goes for efforts to promote energy efficiency. But a rapid transition to renewable energy must be our ambition.
As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be far-reaching, and not just for the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive implications for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, the cost of food and all the goods we depend on rises too. So, let’s all agree that a rapid renewable energy revolution is needed and stop tinkering while our future burns.
The writer is Secretary General of the United Nations.