If the global community is to hit its net-zero goals, renewable energy capacity must triple by 2030. That’s the genesis behind the new partnership between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Masdar, a clean energy powerhouse doing business globally.
The United Arab Emirates (UAEUAE +0.6%) assumes the COP28 presidency this year, propelling the two organizations to create a practical roadmap. The goal is to vastly expand the solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and battery storage foundation — a hard push to prepare for the worldwide climate talks in Dubai in December. COP28 will zero in on the so-called “global stocktake,” which takes stock of national actions and assesses the collective progress — a way to ensure countries fulfill their promises.
“The world needs to commit to tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and to double it again by 2040. In the 17 years since the UAE’s leadership established Masdar in 2006, the cost of a kilowatt hour of solar energy has plummeted to under 2 cents, and we need to harness this pioneering spirit of innovation now more than ever,” said Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, in a press release.
“Masdar has already committed to growing its total capacity five-fold to 100 gigawatts by the end of the decade, and this joint research project with IRENA will emphasize the vital role of renewable energy in limiting global warming when the world comes together at COP28,” his excellency added.
Paris aims to keep temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century compared to pre-industrial levels to mitigate such things as droughts, floods, and food and water shortages. Scientists say we are nearing the 1.2 degrees mark and on track to hit 2.7 degrees. Before Paris, the trend was 4 degrees Celsius. Rising temperatures lead to more frequent natural disasters. Adding significantly more renewables provides an energy boost — one accessible to developing countries.
A key highlight of COP27 in Egypt was a loss-and-damage fund, which compensates less developed nations. Indeed, 138 countries with less than 1% of annual CO2 emissions are at the mercy of 20 nations that make up 80% of those releases. While the agreement is historical, it must still determine what countries get funded and who contributes. No country is immune, and decarbonization is more critical than ever.
Can the world lend developing countries a hand?
It is in the interest of developed countries to create funds for loss and damages to give emerging nations money to “adapt and mitigate” climate events. That includes building resilient roads, bridges, and buildings. It also involves investing in the latest and most remarkable technologies — beyond energy efficiency and low-carbon fuels.
Indeed, decarbonization is the key to curing climate change. And while the conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt refused to agree on language to end fossil fuel usage, it did agree that phasing them out is ultimately necessary. Success also requires ending coal, oil, and natural gas subsidies.
The world is stepping up. Last year, the globe added a record 300 gigawatts of renewables. IRENA says that green energy now makes up 40% of the total installed capacity worldwide. Despite the progress, Director-General Francesco La Camera says the energy transition is off track: renewables must hit 1,000 gigawatts annually to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius alive.
The G-7 — the world’s most advanced economies — is calling for 150 gigawatts of offshore wind and one terawatt of solar rooftop power by 2030. “We are not on track,” the director-general told this reporter in Abu Dhabi. “The infrastructure is unable to support the building of the new energy system. It is based on the old system — supporting oil, gas, and coal extraction. The institutional, professional, and political leaderships must work together to build a new one.”
To that end, the United States passed laws to build climate resiliency while the European Union mandates 55% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Meantime, the Alliance for Industry Decarbonization says it is on board. The industrial sector produces about 25% of the global gross domestic product. Still, it also emits 28% of greenhouse gas emissions — a paradox, given that business will only consume more energy as it expands.
Siemens USA is a crucial player in the organization and development of advanced energy management technologies. Rafael Da Silva Ozaki told this writer in an email that its software manages variable wind and solar energies. The engineer points to the California Independent System Operator: The software analyzes the network every five minutes to determine the lowest-cost generation to meet demand.
And AmazonAMZN -1.1% Founder Jeff Bezos has committed $10 billion to the Bezos Earth Fund, which will distribute hundreds of millions annually to combat climate change. The causes include increasing renewable energy, reducing food waste, and growing electric transportation.
“Our job is to remove barriers. We get involved. There are no silver bullets. It is a jigsaw puzzle. If you want to bring renewable energy to poor communities, the communities have to be in the driver’s seat — not the private sector. Governments are central at the local and national levels,” says Andrew Steer, chief executive officer of the Bezos Earth Fund, in Abu Dhabi. “When it comes to finance, one of the problems with renewable energy is that people think it does not need subsidies. It has crossed that tipping point in some regions. But in others, it has not.”
Climate negotiators will spotlight the global stocktake, telling us that hitting net zero by 2050 is possible, but the window to do so is quickly closing. Renewable energy has carried much of the weight in the battle to decarbonize. But it can do more and must triple by 2030, growing exponentially beyond that.
The threat is not imaginary. Just witness the once-in-a-century weather events happening routinely — experiences that exempt no one, not even the richest on Earth. The global dilemma requires an international solution, which is why COP28’s incoming presidency is elevating the renewable energy cause.