[Editorials] A Renewables Revolution

What are fossil fuels?

  • Fossil fuels refer to coal, crude oil and natural gas. These are derived from fossilized remains of organisms that lived millions of years ago.
  • They have been the driving force behind human progress since Industrial Revolution and they continue to fuel a huge part of today’s economy.

Why shift away from fossil fuels?

Are we shifting away from fossil fuels?

  • The world continues to remain addicted to fossil fuels for the sake of short-term relief.
  • Investors continue to back fossil fuel projects and governments are giving out billions in subsidies for these unclean fuels- around 11 million USD per minute.
  • Recently, the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres accused some world leaders of being worse than Nero (who infamously fiddled while Rome burned)- of throwing more fuel on the fire. This is in regards to how the Russia-Ukraine War has triggered a fossil fuel ‘gold rush’.
  • The Ukraine crisis had set the energy prices soaring across the world. In response, governments have been pouring even more funds into fossil fuels– even as the climate emergency worsens.
  • A report from Climate Action Tracker pointed out that this rush to build new fossil fuel infrastructure, supposedly to meet the demand in the short-term, would mean that the shift away from these fuels would slow down. We risk missing climate targets and the world could be locked into ‘irreversible warming’.
  • The report says that new LNG facilities are being planned in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and Greece.
  • Countries like the US, Egypt, Qatar and Algeria have struck deals to export LNG to EU. West African gas projects are seeing a revival.
  • Even though the EU planned to move away from Russian fossil fuels, it is still planning to continue funding fossil fuel infrastructure elsewhere. Under the ‘REpowerEU’, some €12 billion have been set aside for gas pipelines and LNG import facilities.

Why shift towards renewables?

  • Climate indicators are continuing to break records. Report after report forecast a future of more severe droughts, storms, flood and wildfire. Major portions of the planet are facing unlivable temperatures.
  • We need to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero by the middle of this century. However, the current national commitments would only spell a 14% spike in emission this decade.
  • In such a situation, fossil fuels can’t be the fuel to drive our future.
  • Renewable energy can help limit the disruptions caused by climate change.
  • It will also boost energy security in a sustainable manner.
  • Renewables will prove to be the cheaper option in the long run. This is especially true for countries like India that import most of its oil requirements. Cost of solar energy  has dropped 85% in the last decade. Wind energy cost has dropped by 55%.
  • The prices will also become more predictable. This will have positive effects for food security and economic security.
  • They could help preserve the health of the people and the environment.
  • Investment in renewables means three times more jobs than investment in fossil fuels.

What is the 5-point plan to boost renewables?

  • The UN Secretary General proposed a 5-point plan to boost renewables:
    1. Renewable energy technology must be made a global public good. This means removing IP barriers to technology transfers.
    2. Global access to supply chain for renewables’ technologies, raw materials and components must be improved. Bottlenecks in shipping and supply chains, in addition to the uneconomical costs of battery metals (like lithium), are hurting renewables’ deployment. A global coalition can help address this aspect.
    3. Red tapism that is holding up solar and wind energy projects must be eliminated. Fast track approvals and expedited efforts to modernize power grids are also needed.
    4. Energy subsidies must be shifted away from fossil fuels. Instead, investment must be made for a just transition to a sustainable future.
    5. Investments in renewables must be trebled. This includes investments from multilateral development banks, development financial institutions and commercial banks.
  • It is true that renewables aren’t the only answer to the climate emergency. It needs to be complemented with nature based solutions like afforestation and reversing land degradation.
  • Efforts to promote energy efficiency is also required.

Conclusion:

Renewable energy is the peace plan of 21st century. The world needs to stop fiddling and pursue a rapid renewables revolution.

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