Public and private sector leaders are being urged to double annual investments in renewable energy to keep the world well below 2°C of warming, says a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. With just 11 years left for action to limit the effects of climate change, annual investments of USD 4.3 trillion in the energy sector until 2030 is the world’s most practical and readily available climate solution.
Annual renewable energy investments for the next decade need to double from around USD 330 billion to nearly USD 750 billion per year until 2030.
The findings form part of a new climate investment report by IRENA that highlights how cumulative global energy investments must pivot overwhelmingly towards low-carbon technologies including renewables. More than USD 18.6 trillion of planned fossil-fuel investments by 2050 need to be redirected to hold the line called for by the Paris Agreement and reaffirmed by the recent special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Despite the urgency, current investment patterns show a stark mismatch with the pathway necessary to ensure a climate-safe future. Together, renewable energy and energy efficiency, along with deeper electrification, can deliver 90 per cent of the energy-related emission cuts needed under the Paris Agreement.
“It’s possible to limit climate change and meet the world’s growing energy demand by rapidly accelerating the speed at which we deploy renewable energy,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Only an energy transformation driven by renewables will allow us to meet the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement. Renewables are the only ready and available instrument we have to hold the 1.5°C line over the next 11 years.”
“In meeting climate goals, we can also boost economic growth and deliver on sustainable development with renewables,” continued Mr. La Camera. “But there is an urgent need to rethink long-term energy investment decisions to ensure they lead us to the sustainable future we need. Doubling investments in renewables offers us a tremendous opportunity to improve health, create jobs, deliver economic opportunity and tackle climate change. No other solution is as plausible.”
Transforming the energy system with renewables offers a more cost-effective path than climate inaction. Every dollar invested in the energy transition will offer returns of up to three to seven times in improved human health, lower climate related expenditure and reduced subsidies.
But accelerating renewable energy deployment requires policies that create an enabling environment to unlock investment and encourage economic development, the new report concludes. IRENA will work closer to the ground, facilitating projects and assisting countries in building attractive investment frameworks for renewables. The Agency will also enhance cooperation with the private sector, international financial institutions and multilateral organisations.
In support of the UN Secretary General’s call for decisive climate action, IRENA has launched a campaign that underpins renewable energy as a practical climate action solution. In co-operation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Agency’s “Lead the change. It’s possible with renewables” campaign aims to inform about the potential of renewable energy technologies and in turn encourage concrete climate action.