A rainbow from Machu Picchu to Düsseldorf

Peru! What comes to mind when you think of Peru? Right! The mysterious Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, which attract and inspire so many people from around the world, and still have scientists puzzling over their origin.

Last night, Greenpeace paid tribute to the old Inca culture, also sometimes referred to as the enlightened ones. They believed in the positive energy of the sun, and so do we.

Projection on Machu Picchu Ahead of UN Climate Summit © Thomas Reinecke (TV NEWS) / Greenpeace

Act for the Climate! Go Solar!

“Act for the Climate! Go Solar” was the message we projected onto Huayna Picchu, the mountain that overlooks the ancient city. Why here and why now?

Today, the twentieth UN climate conference (COP20) begins in the Peruvian capital, Lima.

This is the last major round of negotiations before a new climate treaty is expected to be agreed in Paris in a year’s time – a treaty that could pave the way to a global energy transition away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy. 

What’s giving this conference and the energy transition an added boost is that the costs of wind and solar energy have fallen considerably over the past few years. In many countries renewable power plants are now cheaper and produce energy at a lower cost that fossil power plants. Nuclear energy is losing its allure as it proves to be expensive, dangerous and unsustainable. 

The lowest-cost strategy to ensure a carbon-free energy supply is to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix.

“This must be a good sign”

But back to Machu Picchu, where our team of activist projectionists from Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Germany and Spain waited for the last tourists to leave the area. Mosquitos were finding their way through our jackets and pants, making the wait for nightfall feel even longer.

Just before sunset I looked up and saw that a rainbow had appeared above Machu Picchu. “This must be a good sign,” I thought to myself.

That sentiment applies equally to today’s fantastic news from 10,418 kilometres away, in Düsseldorf, Germany. There, the CEO of E.ON – one of the largest power companies in Europe – has announced that the company plans to get out of nuclear, coal and gas and instead concentrate on renewables and smart grid management services.

This wise and timely decision by E.ON underlines how more and more organisations understand that renewables really are the best choice in terms of cost effectiveness for a carbon-free energy supply.

It’s not only Brazil, China, India and South Africa that are seeing their energy demand surge due to economic growth; Germany, too, is feeling the strain on its well-established power supply system.

An end to the ‘climate circus’?

As a prelude to the talks in Lima, the United States and China – the two leading carbon polluters – recently agreed to reduce their emissions. And governments have pledged more than US$9 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

With initiatives like that of E.ON coming on top, we could see the climate talks cast off their reputation of being a ‘climate circus’ where nothing is decided. These talks could be the stepping stone to saving our climate with the phase-in of sustainable energy, such as solar power.

The growing importance and competitiveness of the renewable industry brings a new dimension to the climate talks. Renewable energy can be relied upon to replace the large coal-fired power plants that are the main carbon dioxide emitters. With this in mind, governments should feel more comfortable about taking on the tough emissions commitments that are required to combat climate change.

Sven Teske is a senior energy expert with Greenpeace International. Since 2005 he has been the project leader for the global energy scenario “Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook”.

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