ICCP reports: scale up renewable energy for decarbonisation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar must lie at the core of a massive decarbonisation of the world’s electricity systems to meet climate change mitigation targets.

The IPCC this week delivered the results of its Working Group III, the last of its seven-year review of climate science and options. This focuses mitigation of climate change and the message was one of hope – the world can avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and it needn’t actually cost that much.

To do so, however, would require a significant change from business as usual, and there is perhaps, only a 15-year window for meeting the 2C target affordably.

One of the report’s co-chairs, Ottmar Edenhofer, said it was clear that business as usual – the base case that governs the investment decisions of most of the large oil, gas and coal companies in the world – is no longer tenable.

“Emissions are increasing, and the highest growth has come in the last decade, despite the global financial crisis, and we do not see that business as usual has changed,” Edenhofer said. “We have to deviate from the business as usual pathway. We cannot expect fossil fuel markets will solve problems because of the scarcity of fossil fuels.

The IPCC report canvasses a range of possible solutions, but a major scaling up of renewable energy and a focus on energy efficiency – the two policies threatened by the protestations of the incumbent industries in Australia – lie at the core of all scenarios.

However, the report said that the combined impact of all the measures that would be needed to encourage renewable energy in particular, and a suite of other technologies, might subtract just 0.06 per cent from annual global growth.

And that is without calculating the obvious benefits or reduced air pollution and enhanced energy security, and without the obvious devastating impacts on the economy if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked.

“It is actually affordable to do it and people are not going to have to sacrifice their aspirations about improved standards of living,” Professor Jim Skea, an energy expert at Imperial College London and co-chair of the IPCC report team, told The Guardian. “It is not a hair-shirt change of lifestyle at all that is being envisaged and there is space for poorer countries to develop too.”

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson