climate crisis International Kenny Stancil

Clean Energy Production Must Double by 2030 to Stave Off Catastrophe

"Time is not on our side, and our climate is changing before our eyes," said the head of the World Meteorological Organization. "We need a complete transformation of the global energy system."
Wind turbines in Kern County, California. [Robert Couse-Baker / CC BY 2.0]

By Kenny Stancil | Common Dreams

The worldwide supply of electricity from clean energy sources must be doubled by the end of the decade to limit global temperature rise—or else there is an increased risk that worsening extreme weather disasters turbocharged by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis will further diminish energy security and even imperil renewable power generation.

That’s according to the annual World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of Climate Services report, published Tuesday, which includes input from 26 partners and focuses on energy this year because it “holds the key” to international agreements on sustainable development and climate action, with urgent and far-reaching changes needed to improve public and planetary health.

“The energy sector is the source of around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “Switching to clean forms of energy generation, such as solar, wind, and hydropower—and improving energy efficiency—is vital if we are to thrive in the 21st century.”

“Net-zero by 2050 is the aim,” said Taalas. “But we will only get there if we double the supply of low-emissions electricity within the next eight years.”

According to climate justice advocates, the pursuit of “net-zero” is inadequate because it is “premised on the notion of canceling out emissions in the atmosphere rather than eliminating their causes.”

As long as corporations and governments are allowed to proceed with the status quo in some places while they fund projects that purportedly curb pollution in other places, critics say, there is no evidence that overall emissions will be sufficiently reduced, meaning that the WMO likely understates the extent to which clean energy production must be scaled up by 2030.

Taalas, for his part, stressed that “time is not on our side, and our climate is changing before our eyes. We need a complete transformation of the global energy system.”

Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), echoed Taalas’ message, saying that “now is the time to accelerate the transition to a renewable energy future.”

“Anything short of radical and immediate action will ultimately eliminate the chance of staying on the 1.5°C path,” said La Camera. “The intertwined energy and climate crises have dramatically exposed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of an economic system heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Advancing the transition to renewables is a strategic choice to bring affordable energy, jobs, economic growth, and a resilient environment to the people and communities on the ground.”

Research published last year found that eradicating greenhouse gas pollution within the next three decades would save tens of millions of lives worldwide. In addition, a 2018 report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate estimated that “bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits through to 2030, compared with business-as-usual.”

Despite the immense benefits associated with decarbonization, investment in renewables is woefully inadequate across the globe. Moreover, the amount of international public finance flowing to clean energy production in developing countries is actually declining, from a peak of $24.7 billion in 2017 to $14.2 billion in 2018 to $10.9 billion in 2019.

Even existing pledges “fall well short of what is needed to meet the objectives set by the Paris agreement—limiting global warming to well below 2°C—leaving a 70% gap in the amount of emissions reductions needed by 2030,” says the report. “The 3.7 TW from renewables in 2030 pledged in the 56% of [nationally determined contributions] with quantified renewable power targets, if implemented, represent less than half of what is needed to keep the 2°C goal alive.”

“The radical transformation of the global energy system requires a significant increase in annual investment in energy from just over $2 trillion globally to almost $5 trillion by 2030,” the report notes. “Current levels of investment in renewable energy need to at least triple to put the world on a net-zero trajectory by 2050.”

As the report points out, Africa—which is “already facing severe effects from climate change, including massive droughts, despite bearing the least responsibility for the problem”—has a “huge opportunity to close the gap” in global renewable energy supply.

According to the WMO, “Africa is home to 60% of the best solar resources globally, yet with only 1% of installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity.”

“Bringing access to modern energy for all Africans calls for investment of $25 billion per year, which is around 1% of global energy investment today,” the agency adds.

In addition to reducing deadly greenhouse gas pollution, pursuing an ambitious clean energy transition would alleviate the mounting pressure on global water supplies.

As the report explains:

In 2020, 87% of global electricity generated from thermal, nuclear, and hydroelectric systems directly depended on water availability. Meanwhile, 33% of the thermal power plants that rely on freshwater availability for cooling are already located in high water stress areas. This is also the case for 15% of existing nuclear power plants, a share expected to increase to 25% in the next 20 years. Eleven percent of hydroelectric capacity is also located in highly water-stressed areas. And approximately 26% of existing hydropower dams and 23% of projected dams are within river basins that currently have a medium to very high risk of water scarcity.

By contrast, the amount of water used to generate electricity from solar and wind is much lower.

One of the key findings of the report is that increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather—from droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves to floods to devastating winter storms exacerbated by the rapidly warming Arctic—is already jeopardizing the production and distribution of energy around the world, at a time when global demand is growing and projected to keep climbing.

Not only does this underscore how imperative it is to slash planet-wrecking emissions by ramping up the supply of renewables at a much faster pace, says the report, but it also demonstrates the need to invest more in improved durability, including early warning systems and other tools that increase the capacity to of green-powered grids to withstand and recover from stress.

According to the report, only 40% of climate action plans submitted to the United Nations “prioritize adaptation in the energy sector,” and as a result, “climate adaptation-focused investments in the energy sector remain very low, at just over $300 million, tracked per year in 2019-2020.”

“The transition to clean energy calls for investment in improved weather, water, and climate services that can be used to ensure our energy infrastructure is resilient to climate-related shocks and inform measures to increase energy efficiency across multiple sectors,” states the report, which includes case studies detailing how localized efforts are enhancing decision-making.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said that “we urgently need to respond to the growing impact of climate change on energy systems if we are to maintain energy security while accelerating the transition to net-zero.”

“This requires long-term planning and bold policy action to spur investment, which in turn needs to be underpinned by comprehensive and reliable weather and climate data,” said Birol.

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  1. Not gonna happen. Not even remotely.

    But what they will do, is use it as another way to steal everything you own including your hopes and dreams. That, they will definitely do….

    1. Yep. The problem of global heating has been been instrumentalized to force technofeudalism on us all. I don’t understand why people globally don’t (hmm…) every damn billionaire and their enablers, considering they’re hell bent on killing us. Maybe the human species deserves extinction, considering how damn apathetic and stupid we are, generally speaking.

  2. I expect something different than the conventional narrative on this site.

    With environmentalism, the conventional narrative is panic, terror, despair, and then an oversimplified solution that can easily be coopted by large corporations. (Pretty much all standard narratives now follow this).

    Look at what’s happening in Germany now. They got rid of nuclear and invested in wind and solar – and they need more coal than ever. Meanwhile it’s the poor might literally freeze to death over the winter.

    There’s no doubt climate change is a serious issue. But the bigger story is how it’s been used for even more shock doctrine policies.

    1. Right you are. If the Germans had attacked the energy use problem, they would not be in this fix. On the other hand, if they had continued using cheap Russian natural gas to build out a sustainable system, they would not be in this fix. Perhaps as Germany fails, we will take an object lesson to end war and build future.

  3. I am always amused, when people pretend like renewable energy is ficitonal.
    Germany is densely populated and has a giant demand for energy. 60% of which is by now generated from wind and solar. It would likely be even more had it not been artificially blocked by the last government and if more was invested in energy storing. That said 95% renewables and a minor rest for specific purposes is easily achievable.

    The key is decentralisation, a robust system can not be run on big power stations owned by huge corporations. It is hilarious that the same people complaining about government meddling call it “green fascism” when it is pointed out to them that their power could be produced locally and independently.

    Some especially lunatic people even call nuclear power “green” and “cheap'”, both can only be said when you are absolutely uninformed. There is no energy source even remotely as expensive as nuclear power and that is even before you consider, that no high culture has ever survived for even one tenth of the time, the waste would need to be safeguarded.

    1. Christoph….This is a mistaken number, as you are confusing “Energy” with “Electricity”, they are NOT the same. Electricity is only one form of energy. Germany has a very robust renewables program, one of the best in the world, and as a percentage of TOTAL ENERGY, it only hovers around 15% (and that is wind, solar, hydro, biofuel all combined). The rest of their energy comes from fossil fuels.

  4. The energy ledger has two sides. While
    According to climate justice advocates, the pursuit of “net-zero” is inadequate because it is “premised on the notion of canceling out emissions in the atmosphere rather than eliminating their causes.”
    Without reducing energy demand there is no possibility of achieving climate stability.
    In my view, we must use energy wisely to immediately reduce need for the bloated energy system we have now, one that will never be replaceable by renewables. This means that while building renewable energy infrastructure, we must target efficiency of use, mitigations ranging from public transportation, redesigned cities, agricultural transformation, energy efficiency in buildings, and so on. The lack of political will to either increase renewables or provide for sustainability will lead to extreme disruption and death.

    1. TT:

      Most of those climate change ideologues want no real change ot fix but simply fuel Wall Street greed embedded in WEP/UN IPCC agenda. The only plan they have is to pauperize and/or exterminate world’s population by raising energy prices beyond limits of affordability. And call it achievements of their goalposts. Covid sham did it, now this warmongering and new Cold War destroys world economy while oligarchs thrive all over the world.

      The real solution is socioeconomic Urban Revolution nobody wants to touch since it involves total local control over land and property and nomadic technology of self sustained, self governed mobile human settlements. Which means no global capital no profits no global oligarchic control.

      Appropriate Urban planning of local economically self sustainable communities with full socioeconomic integration would reduce need for human travel and goods movement by 99%. Moreover, result of human centered community Urban design aimed at maximizing proximity of people, production and services like learning, healthcare etc., even remote communications can easily reduced by 99%.

      So we don’t really need all those stupid smartphones either.

      99% of all energy produced today is wasted to produce profits and satisfy manufactured human wants while basic human needs of healthy food and water, safe adequate shelter, human companion and creativity are denied to vast majority of marginalized.

  5. the idiocy of peasants proves democracy only works for the elite—germans and Danes pay more than any EU nation—the morons now worse off /o access to Russian energy—this is backward Stone Age thinking—only advanced nuclear does not damage the environment

  6. This type of ” Clean ” energy is an oxymoron. The audacity to call it clean is all about obfuscation, beating around the bush of truth but never bothering to look at the roots. ” Clean ” energy is just another form of a kinder, gentler, malignant capitalism that will leave the working class in exactly the same position as it stands in now. The spoils to the ruling class corporate thugs and their lackeys in OUR government, and the endless , miserable, underpaid and overworked toil of labor for the working class to produce the chemical laden solar panels and fiberglass behemoths of wind machines that use rare earth elements for which the US and other industrialized nations coup and colonize countries is once again just another regressive capitalist ploy. Until the global working class realizes its immense power and rises up to overthrow nationalism and capitalism for a socialist system where they control the means of production and distribution based on human need and not profit we will continue our slide into the polluted cesspool of capitalist antiquity.

  7. Better grab the nuclear life line and deviate from wrong headed cretins who abhor it…appealing to the green element worked out well for France and ze Germans.

  8. A nuclear power plant produces 8000 times more power than fossil fuels and is environmentally friendly, but when accidents do occur, they have major repercussions, such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Nearly 100 people died either in the accident or through radiation sickness in the years following.

    BYU professor and nuclear engineering expert Matthew Memmott and his colleagues have designed a new system for safer nuclear energy production: a molten salt micro-nuclear reactor that may solve all of these problems and more…….Memmott’s molten salt nuclear reactor is 4 ft x 7ft, and because there is no risk of a meltdown there is no need for a similar large zone surrounding it. This small reactor can produce enough energy to power 1000 American homes. The research team said everything needed to run this reactor is designed to fit onto a 40-foot truck bed; meaning this reactor can make power accessible to even very remote places.

  9. Stancil links the document he references, there is then absolutely nothing contributory by Stancil over & above the commentary in that document. Q. So why bother? A. “I got a career.”

    If Stancil were interested in educating people, he would have posted the link with a few enticing questions and directed readers to download it and find out the answers. But he’s not interested in educating people, he’s a minor careerist on the make and so for him a rehash with a byline is preferable. You look at his Twitter feed and it’s typical neoliberal crap. If he ever rises to “our guest today on CNN” he’ll probably break out the champagne.

  10. The only way out is to reduce consumption drastically. Yet, as long as humanity is fed the Capitalist lie that material goods will make you happy, this will be impossible.

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