Energy is at the heart of the climate challenge and the key to solving it.
A large share of the greenhouse gases that cover the Earth and absorb heat from the sun is produced through energy production, i.e., by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and heat. Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are the most significant contributors to global climate change, accounting for more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.
The science is precise: to avoid the worst effects of climate change, emissions need to be cut by nearly half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. To achieve this, we must end our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in clean, accessible, affordable, sustainable, and reliable alternative energy sources. Renewable energy is everywhere around us, provided by the sun, wind, water, waste, and heat from the earth, replenished by nature, and emitting little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.
Fossil fuels still account for over 80 per cent of global energy production, but clean energy is becoming widespread. About 29 per cent of electricity currently comes from renewable sources.
Here are five reasons why accelerating the transition to clean energy is the key to a healthy, livable planet today and for generations to come.
1. Renewable energy is everywhere
Approximately 80% of the world’s population lives in net fossil fuel importers, and about 6 billion people depend on fossil fuels from other countries, making them vulnerable to geopolitical shocks and crises.
In contrast, renewable energy is available in all countries, but its potential has not been fully exploited. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that by 2050, 90% of the world’s electricity can and should come from renewable sources.
Renewable energy offers a pathway out of import dependency, enabling countries to diversify their economies and protect them from the unpredictable price volatility of fossil fuels while driving inclusive economic growth, new jobs, and poverty reduction.
2. Renewable energy is cheaper
Renewable energy is the cheapest energy option in most parts of the world today. The price of renewable energy technologies is falling rapidly, with the cost of solar power falling by 85 per cent between 2010 and 2020. The cost of onshore and offshore wind power has fallen by 56% and 48%.
Falling prices make renewable energy more attractive on all fronts, including for low- and middle-income countries, where the bulk of the additional global demand for new electricity will be. As costs fall, there is a real opportunity for most new electricity supply to be provided by low-carbon sources in the coming years
By 2030, cheap electricity from renewable sources will provide 65% of the world’s total electricity supply. By 2050, it could decarbonize 90 per cent of the power sector, massively reducing carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that while solar and wind costs are expected to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 2023 due to generally higher commodity and freight prices, their competitiveness has improved due to sharply higher natural gas and coal prices.
3. Renewable energy is healthier
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 99% of the world’s population breathes air that exceeds air quality limits, threatening their health; more than 13 million deaths a worldwide respective year are due to avoidable environmental causes, including air pollution.
Health-hazardous particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. In 2018, air pollution from fossil fuels caused $2.9 trillion in health and economic costs or about $8 billion daily.
Therefore, switching to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, will not only help combat climate change but also help address air pollution and health issues.
4. Renewable Energy Creates Jobs
Every dollar invested in renewable energy creates three times as many jobs as in the fossil fuel sector. The International Energy Agency estimates that the transition to net zero emissions will lead to an overall increase in tasks in the energy sector when about 5 million jobs may be lost in fossil fuel production by 2030, an estimated 14 million new jobs will be created in clean energy, resulting in a net increase of 9 million jobs.
In addition, 16 million workers will be needed in energy-related industries, for example, to take on new roles in the manufacture of electric vehicles and ultra-efficient appliances or in innovative technologies such as hydrogen. This means a total of more than 30 million jobs could be created by 2030 in clean energy, efficiency, and low-emission technologies.
5. Renewable energy makes economic sense
In 2020, about $5.9 trillion is spent on subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, including through explicit subsidies, tax credits, and health and environmental damages not accounted for in the cost of fossil fuels.
In contrast, by 2030, about $4 trillion per year will be needed to invest in renewable energy, including technology and infrastructure investments, through which to get us to net zero emissions by 2050.
The upfront costs can be daunting for many resource-limited countries, and many will need financial and technical support to make the transition. But investments in renewable energy will pay off. Reducing pollution and climate impact alone could save the world up to $4.2 trillion annually by 2030.
In addition, efficient, reliable renewable energy technologies can create a system that is less susceptible to market shocks and increase resilience and energy security by diversifying electricity supply options.
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