The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has said faster adoption of clean, renewable energy will act as a catalyst for many of the world’s new Sustainable Development Goals.
“With our goals clear and with the Paris Agreement on climate change in place, the path ahead is clear. Now we must follow it, without delay”, Mr Ban Ki-moon said at the close of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) summit in Abu Dhabi.
At the IRENA meeting, UN officials argued that falling oil prices were an opportunity to speed up the adoption of renewable energy, as they are freeing space in the budgets of many countries, money that may be harder to find again if oil prices return to previous higher levels.
In particular, lower oil prices could give countries the financial space to remove their fossil fuel subsidies, seen as an important step in levelling the energy playing field, said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief.
She said national plans to act on climate change, submitted by 188 countries as part of a new international climate change agreement agreed last month in Paris, should drive faster adoption of renewable energy because the plans are “actually their national policies”.
If countries seize the new opportunities, the share of renewable energy used worldwide could double by 2030, reducing climate-changing carbon emissions by half, said a new IRENA report.
The cost of solar electric cells has fallen 80 per cent since 2008, making renewable energy increasingly cheap and competitive, it said.
If renewable can win a 36 per cent share of the global energy market by 2030, the global gross domestic product could rise by as much as 1.1 per cent, pumping US$1.3 trillion into the global economy, said the report, which outlined the benefits of such a switch.
Moving toward more renewable energy would also boost the number of people employed in clean energy from 9.2 million today to 24 million by 2030, said the report, which looked at links between renewable energy and GDP, trade balances and the welfare of countries.
“The recent Paris agreement sent a strong signal for countries to move from negotiation to action and rapidly decarbonise the energy sector,” said Adnan Z Amin, IRENA’s director-general, at a gathering of around 140 countries in Abu Dhabi.
Making social progress and cutting use of fossil fuels “is no longer an either/or equation,” he said.
“Thanks to the growing business case for renewable energy, an investment in one is an investment in both.”
“Electricity, education and employment are a challenge in our country and there is enough potential in renewable energy to meet all of them”, Rosaline Smith, a member of Sierra Leone’s parliament, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Last year our government sent a group of 40 women to India to learn about solar panel installations, and on their return they trained hundreds of local women in our country,” she said.
The report projects that boosting the use of renewable energy for things like transport and solar heating for buildings could help reduce fossil fuel use even beyond projected levels in countries such as Japan, India, Korea and the European Union.