“Unstoppable” renewables help climate, security: experts at COP27

“Unstoppable” renewables help climate, security: experts at COP27


Russia’s war in Ukraine has forced a near-term fossil fuel battle, but the rise of solar, wind and other clean energy is “unstoppable,” the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency told AFP.

Speaking at the COP27 UN climate summit in Egypt, Francesco La Camera said market forces now ensure renewable energy will continue to grow rapidly – but also warned that the pace must double to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The war in Ukraine has led to a serious energy supply crisis and oil and gas price spikes, which have forced European countries in particular to quickly look for new suppliers in the winter.

“In the short term, this will have an impact,” said La Camera, Director General of IRENA.

“But in the medium and long term there is no other way than to accelerate decarbonization. After all, renewables are not only good for the climate, jobs and GDP, but a real way to ensure energy independence.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also highlighted the strategic aspect of a shift away from dependence on Russia and other oil and gas suppliers towards clean and secure renewable energy.

Russia’s “use of energy as a weapon,” he said, “is a stark reminder of the need to shift from fossil fuel dependency to renewable energy, as that will make us less dependent on Russian gas and Russian oil.”

Helping NATO allies and countries around the world to switch to green energy will not only help mitigate global warming, it will also be “good for our security”.

– “The market is the engine” –

As delegates meet in Egypt, US President Joe Biden assesses the likely election loss of the House of Representatives to Republicans, many of whom are hostile to his climate policies.

But La Camera said he sees no danger of the United States backsliding on Biden’s push to expand clean energy.

“The market is the engine,” he said. “The market is already saying clearly that we are moving towards a system based on renewable energy and complemented by mainly green hydrogen. Nobody can stop this progress.”

Even under ex-President Donald Trump, “coal-fired power plants had already been closed in the USA,” said La Camera.

“The question is not where we are going, but how quickly and to what extent.”

IRENA, in a report published for COP27, has calculated that the energy transition is not yet on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets, global warming well below two degrees Celsius and preferably at 1.5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era to keep.

“The numbers say we need to double the ambition by 2030,” he said.

Countries worldwide are now on track to achieve 5.4 terawatts of installed renewable electricity capacity by this year – just half of the 10.8 TW needed to meet climate commitments.

– “Phenomenal Potential” –

Africa, where the COP is taking place this year, has huge potential to harness renewable energy, particularly solar power, but experts say it is lagging behind.

Investments in renewable energy there fell to an 11-year low last year, according to a report by research organization BloombergNEF.

The continent accounted for just 0.6 percent of global investment in this sector.

“Africa has phenomenal potential,” said the IRENA boss. “They can produce 1,000 times the power and energy they need. This continent is an incredible powerhouse.

“But we have to check how the cooperation works,” he added. “Africa cannot evolve and move towards a clean energy system without the right physical and legal infrastructure.”

La Camera warned against the temptation to fund new fossil fuel projects, a dream shared by several countries including Senegal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It’s in the continent’s interest to jump on the new bandwagon” and not “get stuck in old technologies,” he said, predicting that doing so would create millions of new jobs and accelerate economic growth.

“But that can only happen,” La Camera said, “if developed countries are willing to support, support and work with Africans to make it happen.”

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