The Paris climate talks in December have been hailed by most as a great breakthrough in reaching global agreement on reducing our reliance on energy produced from fossil fuels. The talks agreed to bring nations together to find ways of holding global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. Whilst this is undoubtedly good news now comes the hard part – to find ways of producing our energy needs from renewable and green sources to match the goal of the agreement.
The agreement on 2 degrees was reached by 196 governments but it also set an aspiration agreement of 1.5 degrees and to produce a net-zero carbon economy in the second half of the century.
However, it is widely recognised that even if all the governments involved in the Paris agreements met their pledges then this would not be enough to hit the agreement’s goal, only achieving a slow-down of global warming to 2.7 degrees.
In the light of this recognition the UN has upped the ante in the issue and called for global business leaders to double their investment into solar and wind energy to £400bn by the year 2020 in order to augment and support investment from governments.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that there needs to be a drastic rethink of our reliance on fossil fuel-based energy production otherwise the agreement reached in Paris would quickly become meaningless. At a recent meeting of UN investors he said that
“I call on the investor community to build on the strong momentum from Paris and seize the opportunities for clean energy growth. I challenge investors to double – at a minimum – their clean energy investments by 2020.” To achieve this, he continues, would require investors to make the shift from “aspiration to action”.
Rachel Kyte, the UN special envoy for sustainable energy, backed Ki-moon by stating that “We had this extraordinary agreement in Paris, we have got points on the horizon. Now we have got to get down to the nitty gritty of long term development of the low carbon economy and that is a lot less sexy in some respects than things negotiated last year.”
It is estimated by the International Energy Agency that the cost of switching from high-polluting power plants to solar and wind electricity generation in order to meet the commitments made at the Paris agreement will cost approximately $16tr by 2030. However, it is argued by some, that this figure is based on the current costs of solar and wind generation infrastructure. These costs have been coming down rapidly for some time as a result of research and investment and look to continue to do so for the foreseeable future if investment is increased further. If this happens then the $16tr figure could well be an overestimation.
Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, a non-profit organisation advocating for sustainability leadership, said that
“ultimately, global investment portfolios need to shift far more capital to low-carbon business activity and away from risky high-carbon sectors that may perform poorly in the years ahead.”