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Renewables to Overtake Coal as World's Largest Power Source, Says IEA
The International Energy Agency's (IEA) latest report found that "in advance of the critical COP21 climate summit in Paris, there's a clear sign that an energy transition is underway." The World Energy Outlook 2015 report, published today, found that "renewables contributed almost half of the world's new power generation capacity in 2014 and have already become the second-largest source of electricity (after coal)."
More than 150 countries have submitted climate pledges ahead of the Paris climate talks, and they are "rich in commitments on renewables and energy efficiency," says the IEA. The report also found renewables are set to become "the leading source of new energy supply from now to 2040." And renewables will overtake coal as the largest source of electricity generation by the 2030s.
The IEA projects “turbulent times” ahead for coal: “Coal has increased its share of the global energy mix from 23 percent in 2000 to 29 percent today, but the momentum behind coal’s surge is ebbing away and the fuel faces a reversal of fortune.” China's coal use will "plateau at close to today's levels," says the IEA, but India's energy demand will grow to 2.5 times its current rate.
It remains to be seen whether India will pursue the coal-heavy track that China followed. Coal demand is set to triple in India and Southeast Asia by 2040, reports the Guardian. At the same time, India is one of many countries aiming to become a so-called "solar superpower," making a huge commitment to renewables at its first big renewables trade convention earlier this year. And India lays claim to the world's first airport powered entirely by solar energy.
"Renewables-based generation reaches 50 percent in the EU [European Union] by 2040, around 30 percent in China and Japan, and above 25 percent in the United States and India," according to IEA estimates.
The rapid growth in renewable energy will help emissions to slow "dramatically," says the IEA, but the current emissions trajectory shows we are still heading for 2.7 degrees Celsius warming by 2100.
The IEA warns that a "major course correction" is still required to keep warming below the two degrees Celsius target. "As the largest source of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the energy sector must be at the heart of global action to tackle climate change," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
"World leaders meeting in Paris must set a clear direction for the accelerated transformation of the global energy sector," she added. "The IEA stands ready to support the implementation of an agreement reached in Paris with all of the instruments at our disposal, to track progress, promote better policies and support the technology innovation that can fulfill the world's hopes for a safe and sustainable energy future."
Yesterday, two reports found the Earth's climate has passed two new milestones. The World Meteorological Organization's report found that greenhouse gas concentrations hit yet another new record in 2014. Globally averaged CO2 levels above 400 parts per million will soon be "a permanent reality,” the WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said.
Meanwhile, the UK's Met Office report found that global warming is on track to exceed one degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the year.
But several groups are outlining how we can rapidly transition to a low-carbon future by expediting the deployment of renewable energy worldwide. Just yesterday, NextGen Climate America released a new report showing that the transition to a clean energy economy will drive economic growth for decades, create well-paying jobs and increase household incomes. And in September, Greenpeace outlined a path for the world to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
“The impossible is becoming possible. The global breakthrough of renewable energy has happened much faster than anticipated," said Emily Rochon, global energy strategist at Greenpeace International.
“The IEA is catching up on renewable energy trends, but it is still failing to see the full potential of change," said Rochon. "We believe that with the right level of policy support, the world can deliver 100 percent renewable energy for all by 2050.”
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.