A large amount of the world’s carbon emissions are created through energy production, by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and heat. The daily and worldwide usage of oil, coal and gas is the most significant contributor to climate change, according to the UN, and it accounts for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions and almost 90% of all CO2 emissions globally.
The science is very clear that we must reach Net Zero globally by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, the energy crisis in Europe has highlighted why renewable energy is important for the future and today.
Following the conflict in Ukraine, the REPowerEU plan aims to end all European reliance on Russian fossil fuels “well before 2030” and significantly reduce usage by 2027. The gap created in energy supply is set to be made by up a share of renewables, making the overall renewable use 45% by the end of the decade.
Upon unveiling the REPowerEU plan, European Commission President stated: “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas… We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition. The quicker we switch to renewables and hydrogen, combined with more energy efficiency, the quicker we will be truly independent and master our energy system.”
As we leave the winter of 2022/2023, it has been a striking reality check to countries across Europe that renewables are an answer to climate change and long-term energy security and stability – so we never have such a damaging energy crisis again.
Renewable energy is cheaper
Renewable energy is proven to be the cheapest power solution in most countries today. The cost of renewable energy production is dropping globally. The price of solar-generated power fell by 85% from 2010 to 2020 – prices of both, onshore and offshore wind power reduced by 56% and 48% respectively.
The cheaper costs make renewable energy a realistic option for all countries, including lower and middle-income countries, where most of the additional demand for new electricity will come from.
Lower electricity costs from renewable energy could provide 65% of the world’s total electricity supply by 2030. Creating an opportunity to decarbonise up to 90% of the power industry by 2050, significantly cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that despite higher costs of solar and wind energy in 2022 and 2023 due to elevated commodity and freight prices, their relative affordability will actually improve in comparison to gas and coal due to a larger increase in prices for those fuels.
Renewable energy sources are abundant
80% of the global population lives in net-importer countries of fossil fuels, which is roughly 6 billion people who are dependent on fossil fuels from other countries. Resulting in high levels of vulnerability to geopolitical crises.
However, this doesn’t need to be the case as renewable energy sources are available in all countries. In fact, The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that 90% of the world’s electricity can and should come from renewable energy sources by 2050.
Using renewable energy sources can help countries become less reliant on importing energy, making their economies more robust by shielding them from volatile fuel costs. This enables economic development, creates new jobs and helps to reduce poverty.
Renewable energy is healthier
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that 99% of the global population breathes air that exceeds the minimum air quality standards which threatens human health. More than 13 million deaths per year are due to avoidable environmental causes, such as air pollution.
A common and damaging fine particulate matter is nitrogen dioxide emitted when burning fossil fuels. In 2018, polluted air from fossil fuels cost the world $8 billion a day ($2.9 trillion per year), in health and economic costs.
Switching to renewable energy which produces zero carbon emissions when in use, helps to address not only climate change but also air pollution, global health and economics.
Renewables create jobs
The UN has found that for every dollar of investment into renewable energy, it creates three times more jobs than in the fossil fuel industry. The International Energy Agency predicts that the shift to a net-zero future will create more jobs than it will eliminate in the energy sector. The agency forecasts that by 2030, 5 million jobs from the production of fossil fuels could be lost, yet 14 million new positions in clean energy will be created, leading to a net increase of 9 million jobs.
Energy related-industries would also create a further 16 million jobs, that includes in the manufacturing industry of new super-efficient and low-carbon technologies. In total, there could be as many as 30 million more jobs as a result of renewable energy-related industries growing.
Renewable energy can improve the global economy
In 2022 alone, $5.9 trillion (6.8% of GDP) was spent globally on funding the fossil fuel industry, through subsidies and tax breaks, though this doesn’t include the cost of damage to the environment and health as a direct result.
Until 2030, a total of $4 trillion per year is required for renewable energy to be hitting the peak of its potential and allow us to reach Net Zero for carbon emissions by 2050.
Renewables can be Community owned
Community energy projects and local energy groups bring together like-minded locals to invest in community generation projects and these projects are owned and run by the communities they power.
Profits go towards local initiatives and more green energy flows into the grid. It’s a truly co-operative way of generating clean power.
For many countries, this sum of money may seem unrealistic to contribute towards. However, there have been promised financial and technical support from some of the world’s most wealthy countries and it has been forecasted that renewables will pay off significantly.
Cutting carbon and mitigating climate impacts alone could save the world up to $4.2 trillion per year by 2030.
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