Recession triggered by covid-19 is expected to increase with the recent oil crisis. But there is a way out: according to an unprecedented report, renewable energy could start immediate recovery, creating millions of jobs and avoiding climate catastrophe
Moving forward with a transformation based on renewable energy is an opportunity to meet international climate goals, while promoting economic growth, creating millions of jobs and improving the well-being of humanity by 2050, points out the first Global Renewables Outlook report published this week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
While a path to deepen decarbonisation requires energy investments of up to $ 130 trillion, the socio-economic gains such a move can be massive, the report reveals. Transforming the energy system could promote cumulative gains for the global gross domestic product (GDP) above the business-as-usual scenario, up to $ 98 trillion now until 2050. This measure would almost quadruple renewable energy jobs to 42 million, expanding the workforce also in energy efficiency to 21 million and adding 15 million in flexibility of energy systems.
The director general of IRENA, Francesco La Camera, says that "governments are facing a difficult challenge to deal with the health emergency imposed by the pandemic of COVID-19 and, at the same time, to introduce major measures for stimulus and economic recovery". For him, this crisis exposed the vulnerabilities embedded in the current system.
“This report IRENA shows ways for us to build sustainable, equitable and resilient economies, aligning short-term recovery efforts with the medium and long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” , points out La Camera. "By boosting renewable sources and making the energy transition an integral part of the broader recovery effort, governments can achieve multiple economic and social goals in the search for a more resilient future that leaves no one behind."
Global Renewables Outlook examines all sectors of the energy system, together with the investment strategies and policy actions needed to manage this transition. He explores ways to reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by at least 70% by 2050. In addition, a new, deeper decarbonisation perspective shows a way for us to have zero net emissions in the energy system. Based on five technological pillars, particularly green hydrogen and prolonged electrification of end use, the report examines how we can replace fossil fuels and reduce emissions heavy industry and in the most difficult sectors for decarbonization.
Low carbon investments would have a significant financial return, points out the report, with gains up to eight times higher than costs when considering the reduction of environmental and public health externalities. A safe climate path requires cumulative energy investments of up to $ 110 trillion by 2050, but enabling full carbon neutrality would add another $ 20 trillion.
The report also indicates paths for the energy and socioeconomic transition in ten regions of the world. Despite the different paths, there is an expectation that all regions will register increasing percentages of renewable energy use, with Southeast Asia, Latin America, the European Union and Sub-Saharan Africa on a trajectory of 70-80% of renewable sources used in their mix energy by 2050. Similarly, electrification of end use, such as transport and heating, would also increase worldwide, exceeding 50% in East Asia, North America and much of Europe. All regions would also register significant welfare gains and net growth in the number of jobs in the energy sector, despite losses related to fossil fuels. However, the gains in terms of economy and jobs would be distributed unevenly. While regional GDP growth would show considerable variation, many regions could expect gains.
Raising regional and national ambition is crucial if we are to achieve energy and climate objectives, while cultivating socio-economic well-being. Stronger coordination between the international, regional and domestic levels would be equally important, the report concludes, with financial support being targeted at the most needy, including in many vulnerable countries and communities. As a partner of the Climate Investment Platform, launched to facilitate and mobilize investments in clean energy, IRENA will continue to act collaboratively to help countries create conditions that enable and release these investments in renewables.