By Amin Kef-Ranger
According to António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, “The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.”
The UN Secretary General said Nero was famously accused of fiddling while Rome burned maintaining how today, some leaders are doing worse. He said they are, literally, throwing fuel on the fire adding that as the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels – pouring billions more dollars into the coal, oil and gas that are driving deepening climate emergency.
He stated that meanwhile all climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unlivable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet.
“Our world faces climate chaos,” he lamented adding how new funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional.
He maintained that Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be furthering that we can see the damage we are doing to the planet and our societies underscoring that it is in the news every day, and no one is immune.
The UN Secretary General pointed out that Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis stating that renewable energy is the answer–to limit climate disruption and boost energy security.
He said had we invested earlier and massively in renewable energy, we would not find ourselves once again at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets.
According to him, renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century but said the battle for a rapid and just energy transition is not being fought on a level field as investors are still backing fossil fuels, and Governments still hand out billions in subsidies for coal, oil and gas – some US $11 million every minute.
António Guterres said there is a word for favoring short-term relief over long-term well-being and it is Addiction. He argued that we are still addicted to fossil fuels admonishing that for the health of societies and the planet, we need to quit now.
He recommended that the only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.
To that end, he disclosed he has called on G20 Governments to dismantle coal infrastructure with a full phase-out by 2030 for OECD countries and 2040 for all others.
“I have urged financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy,” he revealed adding how he has also proposed a five-point plan to boost renewable energy round the world.
He said first, we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer.
Secondly, that countries must improve global access to supply chains for renewable energy technologies components and raw materials.
He said in 2020, the world installed 5 gigawatts of battery storage but 600 gigawatts of storage capacity is needed by 2030 maintaining that clearly, the world need a global coalition to get there.
According to him, shipping bottlenecks and supply-chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hurting deployment of such technologies and materials just as the world need them most.
The Secretary General said thirdly, we must cut the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects adding how there is the need to fast-track approvals and more efforts to modernize electricity grids.
He said in the European Union, it takes eight years to approve a wind farm, 10 years in the United States and in the Republic of Korea, onshore wind projects need 22 permits from eight different ministries.
Fourthly, he went on , the world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.
He said the fifth is that we need to triple investments in renewables and that should include multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks. All , according to him, must step up and dramatically boost investments in renewables.
The Secretary General stressed the need for more urgency from all global leaders adding that we are already perilously close to hitting the 1.5°C limit that science says is the maximum level of warming to avoid the worst climate impacts.
He said to keep 1.5 alive, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century.
António Guterres lamented that the current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14 per cent this decade which spells catastrophe.
He reiterated that the answer lies in renewables – for climate action, for energy security, and for providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it maintaining that renewables are a triple win.
“There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution,” he stated adding that while oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time.
He revealed how the cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade and the cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent with investment in renewables creating three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
“Of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis,” he divulged pointing at nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, saying they are essential and so too are efforts to promote energy efficiency.
He however said a rapid renewable energy transition must be the world’s ambition.
“As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate,” he said adding how energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security.
He concluded by stating that when energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on.
He advised that all must agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and to stop fiddling while our future burns.