IPCC: Switch to clean energy is vital and affordable

switch to clean energy

Greenpeace staged a protest in Berlin calling for a clean energy transition. Courtesy of: Greenpeace, 2014

The long-awaited report on how to curb climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in Berlin, says the world must rapidly move away from carbon-intensive fuels.

But it also concludes that the shift away from dirty energy and the roll out of clean energy would shave only a tiny fraction off economic growth.

After a week of negotiations in Berlin, Germany, Working Group III report makes it clear that we can still keep global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. Even keeping warming below 1.5°C hasn’t been ruled out.

Ottmar Edenhofer, WGIII co-chair said:

Climate policies in line with the two degrees C goal need to aim for substantial emissions reductions. There is a clear message from science: to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual. Many different pathways lead to the future within the boundaries set by the two degrees C goal. All of these require substantial investments. Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs.

Achieving this and securing a safe climate future will not cost the earth. In business-as-usual scenarios, consumption grows by 1.6 to 3 per cent per year.

Ambitious mitigation would reduce this growth by only around 0.06 percentage points a year, i.e. 2.94 per cent growth instead of 3 per cent growth.

The economic assessments of the cost of mitigation in the new IPCC report don’t even include the co-benefits of taking action – such as better public health and increased energy efficiency – or the cost savings which result from avoiding future impacts.

Li Shuo,Climate and Energy Policy Officer, Greenpeace China said:

Science has spoken: climate action is no burden, it’s an opportunity. As renewable energies are growing bigger, better and cheaper every day, the age of dangerous and polluting coal, oil and gas is over. The only rational response to this report is to start the phase out of fossil fuels immediately. It’s simple: the more we wait, the more climate change costs us. The sooner we act, the cheaper the transition to a renewables future for all will be.

The IPCC says that large scale changes in the global energy mix are required – almost a quadrupling of zero and low carbon energy by 2050 – combined with deep and fast emissions cuts.

The IPCC warns, however, that the longer action is delayed, the more expensive addressing climate change will get.

Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative said:

The longer we delay on tackling climate change, the harder the challenge becomes. We know more effort is needed, and quickly. Delaying new mitigation efforts will make it much harder to transition the world’s energy systems to a sustainable, equitable and low-emissions future. Transforming the world’s energy systems is now an urgent necessity if we are to avoid the dangerous impacts of global warming.

The report points out that substantial shifts in annual investment flows between 2010 and 2029 are required, i.e. cuts in fossil fuel investments of $30 billion per year, while more than doubling the investment in renewables.

At a UN summit in September, world leaders must commit to deeper cuts in emissions and faster shifts in energy finance from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewables.

This will lay the groundwork for the strong global climate treaty that’s due in Paris in 2015.

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