It’s been a long week here in Berlin, with experts and government officials finalising urgently awaited conclusions from the United Nations climate change panel about the solutions to climate change. Now they’re done and the message is clear: climate action is an opportunity, not a burden!
The climate panel, which brings together the world’s top energy and climate experts, says that to prevent catastrophic climate change, energy systems around the world must be urgently and fundamentally transformed. For Greenpeace, the bottom line is: we have to stop burning coal, oil and gas. And we can.
Clean, renewable energy is getting bigger, better and cheaper every day and can now provide the solutions the world needs. Renewables are the most economical solution for new power capacity in an ever increasing number of countries.
The “age of renewables” has arrived.
Clean energy is not costly, but inaction is. Costly in terms of lives, livelihoods and economies if governments and business continue to allow climate change impacts to escalate.
The problem now is the outdated dirty energy system. Old polluting power plants, for example. When we talk to people at major energy firms these days, they admit in private that they understand the need to move to clean energy. But the investments that companies such as Vattenfall or E.On have tied up in dirty energy plants, and that may soon be stranded (i.e. wasted) assets, is holding them back.
Now is the time to tell the fossil fuel industry that their time is up. The phase-out of fossil fuels must start immediately.
Greenpeace is committed to making this a just transition that respects also the rights of all workers in the dirty energy sector. We know from our Energy Revolution analyses over the past decade that renewables and energy efficiency will deliver more jobs than carrying on with dirty energy.
By implementing the Energy Revolution governments can, for example, help businesses create 3.2 million more jobs by 2030 in the global power supply sector alone. In South Africa, to pick just one country, 149,000 direct jobs could be created by 2030. That’s 38,000 more than in the current government plan.
We have no time to lose. Global greenhouse gas emissions grew faster between 2000 and 2010 than in previous decades, says the UN climate panel. More than half of the recent growth in global carbon emissions was caused by China burning ever more coal.
Continuing that trend would spell global disaster. But a triple whammy of air pollution, water scarcity and climate risk is turning China around on coal. China’s recently adopted clean air measures have the potential to not just let Chinese citizens breath cleaner air again, but to end the relentless rise of global climate pollution before 2020.
China´s turnaround on coal could also change the dynamics in the global climate debate. The Chinese government could end the current “you go first” mentality that has poisoned progress through the UN climate talks. Instead of fighting over who gets to pump out the most carbon pollution, governments have to face reality and agree that by 2050 no one will be polluting our common atmosphere any longer.
True, countries differ in their capacity to invest in a zero-emissions future. Countries which, in the past, have emitted little should be supported by richer nations in eliminating their old, dirty system. But the days where climate action was thought of as something painful must be over.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if China, emboldened by its domestic actions, were to lead the world to a new global climate agreement by presenting an ambitious new target with binding emission cuts? Imagine how embarrassing that would be for the US and the EU! How could the EU then continue to claim that its proposed 40% cut in emission by 2030 was “ambitious”? Would the EU feel pushed to make a fairer offer, instead – such as cutting emissions within the EU by at least 55%?
A new global climate treaty is due to be adopted in Paris next year. It must include the goal of 100% renewable energy for all and the phase-out of fossil fuels. Only then can governments claim to have understood the true implications of the UN climate report they reviewed this week.
Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International and Kaisa Kosonen a Senior Political Advisor of Greenpeace International
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