IRENA’s Director-General on climate change, jobs, energy investment, and the growing business case for renewable energy.
Climate change is a difficult subject to relate to. We get lost in the science, citing figures on atmospheric carbon dioxide, global temperature trends, and tipping points for climate disaster. Or we get lost in the scale, discussing the enormity of its impact on the environment, global ecosystems, and transcontinental weather patterns.
In all this grandiosity, we lose sight of the most fundamental effect of climate change: decreased human health.
Today at the UN Climate Change Conference, the World Health Organization highlighted some staggering figures about the effects of climate change on human health:
- Climate change is already dramatically affecting human health
- Instances of diarrhea increase 8% for every 1 degree centigrade temperature rise
- Air pollution has caused more than 7 million deaths (the AIDS pandemic killed 2.3 million people in its worst year)
- Asthma now affects over 40% of Delhi residents, with air quality amongst the worst in the world
- Climate change causes death and injury through heat, vector borne diseases, extreme weather events, food and water borne illnesses, and malnutrition
The health impact of emissions from global energy use is significant, but its economic cost is difficult to quantify. A 2013 study conducted by experts from the US Environmental Protection Agency found that the national economic health cost caused by fossil fuels was between USD 361.7 billion and USD 886.5 billion annually. The European Health and Environment Alliance found that emissions from Europe’s coal-fired power plants cost its citizens up to EUR 42.8 billion in health costs every year.
IRENA research estimates that doubling the global share of renewable energy – a goal well within reach by 2030 – could improve health enough to reduce global health costs by up to USD 200 billion. This makes renewable energy so much more than just a way to reduce global emissions. The global implementation of renewables ensures nothing less than the health of humanity.
Now that’s something we can all relate to.
“Welcome to the region with the highest renewable energy share in the world (electricity sector).” – Edwin Quintanilla Acosta, Peruvian Vice Minister of Energy at the launch event for the Geothermal Development Facility for Latin America
A new programme designed to support the development of geothermal energy in the Latin American region was launched today on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. Peru’s involvement in the Geothermal Development Facility is part of its plan to achieve 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
Earlier this year, the Peruvian Government and IRENA cooperated on a Renewables Readiness Assessment (RRA) for the country. The assessment identifies actions needed to further expand the share of renewable energy in Peru, as well as how to better complement rural electrification and improve on-going efforts to support the development of bio fuel in the country.
The RRA determines that Peru’s vast, untapped, renewable energy resources could play a key role in securing the necessary energy to fuel economic expansion while preserving the environment. It also highlights the need to prepare for renewable energy integration in transmission-grid expansion plans, particularly so that variable sources like solar and wind power can meet future electricity demand.
While the RRA process helps shape appropriate policy and regulatory choices, each country determines which renewable energy sources and technologies are relevant and consistent with national priorities.
More information on the IRENA RRA series.
Today, 60 legislators from 20 national parliaments gathered together to kick start legislative action on climate change. Keynote speakers included IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and the Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal.
With the world watching another typhoon batter the Philippines, and given frustrations regarding the slow pace of the ongoing climate negotiations, the impetus falls on legislators to take action now on climate change.
IRENA analysis shows that it’s possible to double the share of renewable energy in the world energy mix, from 18 to 36%, by 2030. But this won’t happen on its own. IRENA’s Director-General urged legislators to do their part, and offered IRENA’s unique blend of research and technical advise to support them in doing so.
“To drive the rapid uptake of renewables, legislators have to take an urgent and active approach, adopting new policy frameworks at the national and regional levels. There is no fixed formula to make this happen.
Without the support of legislators, we will be unable to turn the tide. I have come to believe this is the biggest moment in all of our political careers. History books will be written about what we do over the next 12 months. I encourage you to come together and embrace the extraordinary opportunities the renewable revolution has to offer.”
Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General at GLOBE legislator event
“Quite frankly, there is no answer to climate change without substantially, dramatically, increasing the amount of renewable energy in the global energy system.” – UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres during IRENA video interview
Today, IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Amin met with head UN climate chief Christiana Figueres to discuss the key role of renewables in addressing climate change.
More than 80% of human-caused CO2 emissions come from burning fossil fuels for energy. Of that, 44% comes from coal, 36% from oil and 20% from natural gas. As such, energy must be our priority in bringing down global CO2 emissions.
World electricity generation is forecast to grow 70% by 2030. A doubling in the share of renewable energy, from 18% today to 36%, would help mitigate climate change by reducing the global average emissions to the equivalent of a 40% intensity reduction compared to 1990 levels.
For more, read IRENA’s REmap 2030 analysis.
“Chile came to COP 20 with actions: this year it doubled its total renewable energy capacity.” – Marcelo Meno, Vice Minister of the Environment, Chile
Today is NAMA day at COP 20, with various side events and presentations dedicated to discussing how NAMAs can be developed, find financing and limit risk.
While the name is a mouthful, nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs for the acronym-inclined) play a central role in the global response to climate change.
NAMAs are any set of policies or actions that a country voluntarily undertakes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They allow each country to chart its own path to mitigate climate change and get around the idea that one mechanism, or one set of policies, must work for every country (a climate negotiators nightmare).
Approved NAMAs include the introduction of a smart metering system in Serbia, the use of solar energy for hot water production in Belgrade, and a wind energy programme is Spain.
As the above examples illustrate, NAMAs also work to create an enabling environment for renewable energy implementation. They mobilize political support for renewables, and complement existing instruments like the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
That said, moving a NAMA from planning to actual implementation is a challenge.
Successful NAMAs must have government support and be consistent with existing domestic regulatory frameworks. They also must be in line with national priorities and development strategies.
IRENA created a NAMAs handbook (updated in time for COP 20) to advise policy makers and developers on how to build successful NAMAs that deploy renewable energy and mitigate climate change.
Please share and let’s see more NAMA’s get underway.
Check out UNFCCC’s NAMA Registry to see what projects are in the pipeline.