The increased use of renewables is playing a key role in the fight against climate change. Current efforts, however, are insufficient to contain warming to under 2°C.
Climate change is the most critical challenge of our time. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they’ve been for 800,000 years and are on the rise. Cumulative carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the rise in average global surface temperature have a nearly linear relationship. The effect of this is unprecedented global warming: the last three years were the hottest ever recorded.
Climate change has already had a significant impact on our planet: violent storms, drought, wildfires, flooding, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.
The solution of the climate change clearly involves decarbonization. A transition toward the mass use of renewable energy sources is underway, but we need further progress if we want to have a positive effect on climate change while also ensuring coverage for an ever-increasing energy demand.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), to contain impacts on the climate effectively, the energy transition will have to involve a roughly 45% reduction in current CO2 emissions by 2040. Today, renewable energy accounts for about 25% of the world’s electricity supply, and is expected to double this contribution by 2040. Renewable sources are taking on a more dominant role in the energy mix. The efficient integration of these sources is key to a smooth transition for the energy sector.
Renewable sources have accounted for more than half of the world’s installed capacity in the last five years.
Due to accelerated investments, the cost of these technologies has been substantially lowered. In many areas of the world, it is now more affordable to build a new renewable plant than to keep using a plant run on fossil fuels. Another impetus for sector development is growing demand from medium-large industrial operators: the purchase of renewable energy is a choice that takes economics, sustainability and respect for socio-environmental values into consideration. The trends are encouraging, but we have to move even faster if we want to achieve the goals we’ve set. We must keep investing in innovation, so that renewable production becomes not only the best response to growing energy demand, but a reliable solution to replace high-emission technologies.
Alongside the actions we are undertaking in electrical energy supply, we need to identify appropriate action plans for sectors that use that energy, like construction, industry and transport.
Increased electricity use in areas that are not typically electric now (e.g. building heating, mobility) would allow for a more efficient use of resources. The so-called electrification of consumption is accompanied by energy savings.
The electrification of transport and temperature control will lead to further growth of renewables as we explore the coherence between production and demand. For example, between solar production and the demand curve created by air conditioning use.
In light of all this, the need for collective and solid commitment across our society, in both the public and private sector, becomes clear. This requires the adoption of sustainable behaviours and concrete and widespread commitment, from large companies to individuals. There is no time, nor reason, for delay. We can no longer believe that pollution and emissions are the inevitable cost of progress: it’s not true, and we can’t afford to think that. Most of all, this kind of thinking stops us from seizing opportunities for improvement and development that the challenge of climate change provides for us.
Acting quickly is necessary, and it is possible. It is also our moral duty toward future generations.