COP21: Solar eyes role in delivering Paris pledges

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The deal in Paris now needs to be backed with swift action to chart a course to transition away from fossil fuels. Image: Taylor Miles, Flickr.

Solar industry figures have hailed Saturday’s historic climate agreement in Paris and urged swift action by world leaders to map out how countries will now meet the aims of the deal.

The agreement, over 20 years in the making, sets the world a goal of limiting warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, a more ambitious target than the 2C set six years ago in Copenhagen.

“The Paris agreement puts the energy transition in the fast-track as 196 countries have committed to legally binding targets, retreating from polluting fuels and investing in clean, sustainable energy,” said Oliver Schäfer, president of trade body SolarPower Europe.

“We commend world leaders for the ambitious pledges made, which is sure to accelerate deployment of solar and boost investor confidence – sending a strong message that the low-carbon economy is real and already well underway.”

Despite the euphoria over the agreement, pledges made by individual countries via the so-called intended nationally determined contributions have been shown in various analyses to be insufficient and will lead to warming of around 2.7C.

Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, said world leaders now needed to chart a clear course to meeting the aims of the deal.

“Renewable energy has made remarkable progress in the last decade. Combined with energy efficiency, it provides an immediate, viable and affordable solution to the challenge of climate change. But to meet the ambition set forth in the agreement, accelerating the deployment of renewable energy deployment across all sectors must start now,” he said.

“In January 2016, we will welcome global energy leaders at the 6th Session of the IRENA Assembly to move the Paris Agreement to the next phase, setting the global renewable energy agenda and establishing a blueprint for action to meet climate goals and set the world on a path to a sustainable energy future,” Amin said. 

Solar energy has been one of the central focal points of conversation during the Paris talks, and will undoubtedly have a key role to play in delivering the targets.

“Solar truly has been the talk of Paris, this is a deserved recognition for this most versatile of technologies. Solar is key to reversing climate change and to making good economic sense – illustrated by the wave of new government and business led initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, Terrawatt Initiative and the Global Solar Council,” said Schäfer.

Matthew Spencer, director of the UK-based Green Alliance, said: “[The deal] will accelerate the rapid technological change we have already begun to see in our energy system and in the development of the next generation of buildings, cars and household appliances. It challenges the widespread scepticism that politics can ever deliver a better world, because it just did. The agreement itself might not yet limit temperature rise to below 2 degrees, but it makes the world significantly less dangerous because it takes off the table some of the truly catastrophic scenarios where we burn all of the worlds fossil fuel reserves.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) offered a more sober account of the final deal.

“In summary, the deal reached in Paris is weak, containing no concrete increase in the level of ambition to address climate change, and simply urging countries to do more over time,” it said in a statement.

“The climate debate will continue for years to come, and although COP21 has failed to come up with a solution to the climate problem, it has arguably set up the means through which a solution, if at all possible, may eventually be reached, i.e., through a process of continual assessment and cooperation between countries.”

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