A green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic would have helped countries build back better while boosting economic growth and job creation. But the latest Global Renewable Energy Status Report 2022 paints a different picture. According to the report, the global energy transition the world had hoped for is simply not happening.
The rebound in economic activity that we have seen has led to a 4% increase in global energy demand, which has been met mainly by fossil fuels and has been further exacerbated by soaring energy prices after the war in Ukraine.
The greatest success of renewables in 2021 has indeed been in the electricity sector, but the report finds that we are not using enough renewables to heat and cool our homes. At the same time, the industrial sector is the largest consumer of energy, accounting for more than a third of global final energy demand, while progress in the transport sector remains slow.
Niklas Hagelberg, Climate Change Coordinator at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) discussed the global energy crisis and what can be done to shift to an energy-efficient economy.
Hagelberg said indeed that it is alarming that even in the energy sector, which has cost-effective solutions, we have not yet seen emissions drop. To accelerate the transition, every household and business must switch to renewable energy, thermal heating and cooling zones, and low-carbon modes of transportation. But this cannot be done at the required speed if governments do not facilitate the rapid installation of renewable energy production, the securing of connection to the network and the promotion of its use. Authorization processes need to be significantly reduced. We also need direct support for the evolution of heating and cooling and energy that supports the transport sector. Lowering public transport fares, as Deutsche Bahn did for the summer months, is an example where we can almost completely avoid emissions in mobility.
“Energy is linked in one way or another to some 70% of global emissions, and switching to low-carbon forms of energy is essential. We cannot maintain the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement without a rapid energy transition. Political commitments, national strategies and legislation are all crucial for the transition. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the actual shows, which must peak immediately. And the longer we delay the transition, the higher the cost of loss and damage will be to society, businesses, individuals and governments,” Hagelberg said.
Renewable power facilities continued to attract significantly more investment than fossil fuel or nuclear power plants, with renewables accounting for 69% of the total amount committed to new power generation capacity in 2021. So we should take a moment to savor this progress.
However, this progress is insufficient and has not matched the growth in overall global energy demand. To get back on track, we need to triple the pace of the energy transition. One of the main reasons the transition is not happening as needed is the continued subsidization of fossil fuels. Between 2018 and 2020, governments spent $18 trillion, or 7% of global GDP in 2020, on fossil fuel subsidies, in some cases while reducing support for renewables. We do not need to remove these subsidies from the energy sector, but we must move towards renewable energies and accompany the transition.
All! By 2030, we must halve our emissions, which means all industries that use energy to heat, cool and light their facilities and manufacture and transport their products must take action. To give an example of the scale of the transition needed, we are on track to add more than a billion cars by 2050, almost all of which will be in low- and middle-income countries, a Hagelberg said.
To ensure that these do not add emissions, cycling, walking, public transport and switching to electric vehicles must be supported.
[Note: This story is a part of ‘Punascha Pruthibi – One Earth. Unite for It’, an awareness campaign by Sambad Digital]