Did you read the news last week? The impacts of climate change are being felt all around the world. And it’s going to get much worse if we carry on polluting our way into the future.
It’s frustrating. It’s infuriating. And it makes you want to switch off.
But wait. It’s about to get exciting. Starting today in Berlin, experts from around the world are discussing ways to fight the climate change monster and finalising the third part of the UN climate panel’s periodic climate assessment. Don’t yawn… Read on for the good news.
A lot of positive and hopeful things have happened since the last global review in 2007 of ways to cut climate pollution:
- Since 2007, there’s now over 10 times more power from solar panels, six times more concentrating solar thermal power and three times more wind power in the world. Clean energy is growing at a tremendous rate and countries are relying on it more and more.
- Germany – hardly an industrial backwater – now gets almost 25% of its power from renewables, up from 8% in 2002. By 2050 it aims to get at least 80% of its electricity from renewables while phasing out nuclear power!
- Between 2006 and 2011, China doubled its overall wind power capacity every year. In 2012, the increase in China’s wind power generation exceeded the increase in generation from coal.
- In India, where the coal industry is choking under inefficiency, corruption and environmental problems, solar energy was almost zero just three years ago but now it’s booming and becoming economically more attractive for investors.
Renewable energy has made a real breakthrough. We all know it’s clean and safe. Now it’s bigger, cheaper and ready to challenge dirty energy from coal and nuclear.
The cost of clean energy has fallen so much that it’s now the most economical solution for new capacity in more and more countries.
Investment banking giant Citigroup has hailed the beginning of the “Age of Renewables”, saying that solar and wind energy are increasingly competitive with coal, gas and nuclear in the US – the world’s biggest electricity market.
And the International Energy Agency says that any country can reach high shares of wind and solar power cost-effectively. But this depends on choosing a new energy system over pleasing the old polluters with their coal, gas and nuclear. So it’s no surprise that the old players with outdated thinking are fighting back.
The choice between the new and the old should be a no-brainer. Think of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Fukushima nuclear accident and the apocalyptic air pollution problem in China. They’re all accelerating the transition to cleaner, safer energy. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), that was intended to buy time for the fossil fuel industry, is failing to meet expectations.
Greenpeace expects the UN climate panel’s report to reflect these recent developments as it outlines the scale of changes needed in energy and in other sectors.
What’s clear from the panel’s other recent reports is that it’s not enough to tinker with the system – we need to say goodbye to polluting energy. And it can be done. Many cities, regions and institutions around the world have already set or even achieved targets for 100% renewable power. And companies like IKEA, Google, Apple, Facebook, Salesforce and Walmart have made the same commitment. Denmark, which in October will host the meeting to approve this year’s UN climate panel report, is committed to producing all of its heat and power from renewable energy by 2035, and all of its energy by 2050.
So here’s an idea for all the governments who are stuck in endless fights about sharing the “burden” of fighting climate change: open your eyes to the reality and opportunity of clean energy. Acting against climate change is not a burden; it’s the best investment in global wellbeing and security. Support clean, safe, smart, secure, competitive, flexible, modern, limitless energy. (How many adjectives do we need to use before they finally get the message?!).
Instead of fighting over pollution rights in 2050, how about agreeing at the Paris climate summit next year that the goal by the middle of this century is that there will be no climate pollution to argue about? With the goal of phasing out dependence on coal, oil and gas and going for 100% renewable energy, governments would provide an inspiring, unifying goal for the whole of humanity. It would respond to the people’s choice, set loose our unlimited combined creative potential and mobilise the big money.
There’s still time to prevent catastrophic climate change. Together, we can do it. So let’s get stuck in.
(Quick note to Chancellor Merkel and other EU leaders: in June, you need to agree on a binding 45% renewable energy target for 2030. Don’t let the world down.)
Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace Senior Political Advisor, Climate & Energy
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