Countdown to COP21: How solar can grease wheels of the UN climate talks


Solar energy is helping developing countries to make ambitious climate change pledges ahead of next month’s UN summit in Paris, the CEO of The Climate Group has told PV Tech.

Mark Kenber, also a former climate advisor to erstwhile British prime minister, Tony Blair, said that historically, developing nations like India had argued that cutting carbon was too expensive but that progress in sectors such as solar were enabling them to shift that position.

“India has made an argument over the years that it cannot afford the incremental cost of moving from high to low carbon, it would have to prioritise development and poverty alleviation and if the high carbon route is cheapest and most effective route of doing that that is the route it would pursue,” said Kenber.

India has submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UN, effectively its commitment to reduce its emissions as part of the new climate agreement, which the Paris summit is aiming to seal.

Kenber said that while India’s emissions pledge is “at the lower end of what was possible”, its plans on how to achieve them are more promising with a pledge to source 40% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

“The reduction in renewable costs plus that build-up of knowledge and capacity has moved the needle. Ten years ago it wouldn't have happened, costs were too high and capacity was too low. Now both of those are moving in the right direction,” he added.

Kenber also warned that those who were sceptical about top-down targets or India’s ability to install 175GW of renewables were in risk of missing out on a major new market.

“India may not get 175GW but let’s say it gets 150 or even 100, that's a huge step change and that's still 100GW of opportunity that somebody who says ‘let’s wait and see what happens’ is going to miss out on.”

Mark Kenber will be talking at Solar Energy UK in Birmingham, 13-15 October. To browse PV Tech's coverage of the COP21 climate talks, click here.

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