Why we need to accelerate the energy revolution at COP26
As the COP26 of the United Nations Climate Conference opens, I want to emphasize hope and the urgency to act. COP26 comes at a time when all partners at all levels – from the private sector to governments – around the world are coming together to create unstoppable momentum for clean energy.
Since the historic Paris Agreement, we have witnessed a shift in the global conversation on climate change, now recognized as “code red for humanity”. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a remarkable emphasis on the climate crisis to recover with energy efficient practices integrated into new modes of travel, work, consumption and production. This is a huge achievement, an unprecedented moment in the history of mankind.
The climate crisis defines our time. The devastating floods, heat waves and forest fires witnessed across the world over the past year are a vivid illustration of this. Young people are keenly aware of the gravity of the situation: the G20 climate vote, recently released by UNDP and Oxford University, revealed that 70% of young people in G20 countries think we are in a situation global climate emergency.
The political, economic, financial and business arguments for clean energy have never been stronger. We are on the cusp of a historic energy revolution that will reshape the way we power our societies and our economies. Our window of collective action is closing quickly and progress is not fast enough.
So, how do you make the transition to cleaner energy sources and get out of the climate crisis? Here are my four reasons for hope, for countries to seize the opportunity to accelerate the energy revolution.
1. It is increasingly recognized that the energy transition is an economic opportunity
We need to tackle head-on the misconception that the energy transition is a costly burden. Renewable energies are today a competitive alternative to fossil fuels, particularly coal. Solar power can now provide some of the cheapest electricity in history. Wind power production follows a similar path, with prices falling by around 50% over the past decade. Financial markets seize the opportunity: In 2020, for the first time, clean energy companies raised more money than fossil fuel companies through public offerings.
This energy revolution will create jobs – up to 60 million jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030; improve global health outcomes by reducing air pollution; unlock opportunities, especially for women through access to clean kitchens and for young people through better access to education and the Internet across the world.
2. COP26 comes after two years of unprecedented commitments in clean energy
The 800 billion euro Green Deal package in Europe; the US commitment to double its contribution to climate finance in developing countries; India’s commitment to increase the installed capacity of renewable energy to 450 GW by 2030; to the US $ 400 billion committed for access to clean energy and the energy transition by governments and the private sector as part of the High Level Dialogue on Energy, these commitments, and many others, are quite simply revolutionary.