Friday 28th October 2016                 Change text size:

#COP21 report: world on brink of huge expansion in renewable capacity

Dong Offshore wind farms in the UK

National plans to tackle climate change made ahead of the Paris climate talks indicate the world is on the brink of a huge expansion in renewable capacity, says a new report.

The plans, called INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), commit governments to a major expansion of renewable power. The report, Transformational INDCs: how new renewables pledges could transform the economics of wind and solar, by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Climate Nexus, shows that India and China’s pledges alone could double the current global capacity of wind and solar in the next fifteen years.

Significant growth in renewable energy capacity, and falling costs of generating electricity from renewable power, is a key difference between the Paris climate summit and the failed Copenhagen talks of 2006.

The report says that the INDCs highlight the transformative potential of the Paris process. If the renewables expansion the INDCs suggest lead to further cost reductions, it will enable even greater take up of clean technologies, creating a virtuous circle of renewable deployment. But the transformation is dependent on a successful outcome from the Paris negotiations.

“Businesses and investors are looking to negotiators in Paris to agree a new global climate deal so that they can unleash a wave of new investment in clean energy,” said Richard Black, director of the ECIU.

“It reinforces the view that increasingly, seeing climate change in terms what it will cost is nonsensical. As other analyses have shown, addressing climate risks effectively presents massive opportunities not just to maintain growth, but to have better growth.

“This report also shows how the deployment of climate solutions like renewable energy technologies is disrupting existing business models, particularly in energy. Businesses and governments that resist this transformation risk getting left behind.”

The report also notes that in comparison with renewable energy, the costs of low-carbon nuclear power are rising, in OECD countries at least. It says that the transformed economics of renewables such as wind and solar power make a compelling reason to decarbonise, even for countries currently uncommitted to a clean energy transition. Increased capacity and falling costs are likely to make renewables the most attractive option for climate laggards as well as climate leaders, it says, making the shift to clean energy an unstoppable force.

This level of transformation is dependent on a successful outcome from the Paris negotiations, however, as many countries’ INDCs are conditional on a successful global deal.

“This report clearly sets of the prize awaiting countries if they agree a new climate deal in Paris, and the missed opportunities if they fail,” said Richard Black.

“The implementation of many county’s INDCs depends on a successful outcome in Paris, so there really is a massive amount at stake in these talks.”

The INDCs not only secure emission reductions, says the report, they also help accelerate the ongoing transformation of the energy sector, making sectoral scale investments in clean energy that will drive prices down even further, permitting cheaper and thus deeper and steeper emission reductions in the futures.

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