Nations slammed for empty words on climate action

The world has wasted its chance to use renewable investment as the foundation for the rebuilding of the global; economy and as such have proved its promises in the fight to combat change are empty words.

A hard hitting report from renewables organisation REN21 said 2020 could have been a gamechanger, and economies rebuilt after the impact of COVID. Instead investment has continued into fossil fuels dealing an almost fatal blow to the efforts to keep global warning in check.

While primary energy demand fell by 4%, last year, even with this historic decline, G20 countries, the planet’s biggest polluters, barely met or even missed their “unambitious” renewable energy targets.

REN21’s Renewables 2021 Global Status Report found that the world is nowhere near the necessary paradigm shift towards a clean, healthier and more equitable energy future.

It added the share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is as high as a decade ago (80.3% vs. 80.2% today) and the renewable energy share only increased slightly.

“Even with the historic decline in energy consumption last year, the five G20 countries with 2020 renewable energy targets struggled toward their goals. The other 15 did not even have one,” it added.

“We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past ten years have mostly been empty words. The share of fossil fuels in final energy consumption has not moved by an inch,” says Rana Adib, REN21’s Executive Director. “Phasing them out and making renewables the new norm are the strongest actions we can take.”

The organisation said shifting to renewable energy is not only necessary and possible, but it also makes business sense.

“Fossil fuels are responsible for climate change, and also heavily contribute to biodiversity loss and pollution,” added the report.  “A significant move from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a necessary step to take and making renewables the norm is not a question of technology or costs.

“The power sector has made great progress already. Today, almost all new power capacity is renewable. More than 256 GW were added globally in 2020 – surpassing the previous record by nearly 30%. In more and more regions, including parts of China, the EU, India and the United States, it is now cheaper to build new wind or solar PV plants than to operate existing coal-fired power plants. This progress could and should be replicated in all other sectors.”

“The renewable energy transition is gaining pace because it makes business sense as well as environmental sense. Renewable electricity is already creating millions of jobs, saving businesses money, and providing energy access to millions. But businesses and governments need to go faster, not only for the environment, but to remain competitive in a renewably powered 21st century economy,” says Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100.

The report said recovery packages continued to pour money into the brown economy despite advantages of renewables The report noted that there has been a wave of stronger commitments to action on the climate crisis in 2020. This includes net zero carbon emissions targets by China, Japan and South Korea.

“Together with announcements of funding for a green economic recovery, taking public spending to levels higher than the Marshall Plan after World War II, this should have made 2020 the year when the world pushed the reset button for the global climate economy and renewables,” it added. “But instead of driving transformation, recovery packages provide six times more investment to fossil fuels than to renewable energy. This year’s report raises a fundamental question: what is holding the world back from using the COVID crisis as an opportunity for transformation?”

Dr Stephan Singer, Senior Advisor at CAN International says, “Unfortunately the harsh lesson from the pandemic is that most governments did not use the unique opportunity to further curtail carbon pollution and break the resistance of the fossil fuel incumbents. What counts for them is corporate profit – neither the climate nor people’s health.”

“Governments must not only support renewables but also rapidly decommission fossil fuel capacity. A good way to accelerate development is to make the uptake of renewable energy a key performance indicator for every economic activity, every budget and every single public purchase. Thus, every ministry should have short- and long-term targets and plans to shift to renewable energy coupled with clear end-dates for fossil fuels,” concluded Adib.

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