Renewable a-listers call for climate neutrality as COP25 kicks off


Image credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash

World leaders set to negotiate this week a pivotal item of the fight against global warming should aim higher with their emission-curbing ambitions, top renewable names have said.

The EU should spearhead worldwide efforts against climate change by setting targets to become climate neutral by mid-century, European majors EDP, Enel, Iberdrola, Ørsted, SSE, Statkraft and Verbund urged in a letter released shortly before COP25 got underway in Madrid.

The missive, aimed at world leaders attending the annual UN climate talks, called on the EU to start the transition by slashing bloc-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, up from the current 40% target. Current economic and social conditions already favour this steeper goal, the letter said.

A shift to a climate-neutral economy, EDP and the others argued, would be helped along by “increased public support” and the fact that competitive, scalable technologies already exist to deliver it. Renewable cost drops in particular have been “dramatic”, the letter said.

The European Green Deal proposed by new European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen is positive but must be accompanied by policies providing “clear price signals” to encourage investment in renewables, the letter said, calling for a “rethink” of energy taxes.

A carbon market to help reverse emission rises

The intervention by energy majors comes four years after the world signed the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Inked at COP21 in 2015, the deal commits signatories to limiting global warming by 2100 to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with 1.5°C as a non-binding goal.

Repeated global emission hikes in recent years have seen many raise the alarm. UN scientists said last year the world only has until 2030 to prevent catastrophic climate change, with latest estimates showing 7.6% annual emission cuts are needed until then to prevent such a scenario.  

This year’s COP25 summit in Spain’s Madrid – the location was changed after anti-government protests in original host nation Chile – is expected to delve into a thornier side to the Paris Agreement’s fine print, that of mechanisms able to unlock the trillions in finance required by climate goals.

Talks on the Agreement’s Article 6 could pave the way for the creation of a UN-supervised global carbon market, whose proceeds could go towards renewables and other ventures. Under a separate clause, countries exceeding Paris goals could sell the extra achievements to underachievers.

The EU’s own attempt of a carbon market – the so-called Emission Trading System (ETS) – has long been marred by claims that too-generous terms for polluters disincentivise emission cuts. In their letter, EDP and others called for further limits to the number of ETS emission allowances.

Corporates eye green energy as countries wage trade war

The efforts to secure a global deal on climate finance come as the broader, multilateral cooperation spirit falters under intensifying trade feuds.

US president Donald Trump – who is waging solar trade disputes with China, India and others – recently launched proceedings to push his country, the world’s largest per-capita CO2 emitter, outside of a Paris Agreement it had ratified under predecessor Barack Obama.

Divisions around wider climate policies are not stopping leaders – even self-professed climate skeptics such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro – from tolerating or even fostering a solar boom. The technology’s plummeting costs are opening the doors of government auctions and free-market plays.

Last year’s meteoric global growth rates of solar (around 100GW) and all green energies (around 170GW) have not gone unnoticed by the UN and energy bodies the IEA and IRENA. All have said that meeting Paris goals will require keeping, and accelerating, such rapid pace of renewable roll-out.

Corporates, increasingly the enablers of green energy growth via supply agreements, also chose the COP25 launch to call for more conducive renewable policies. On Monday, the RE100 platform – regrouping companies aiming to become fully renewable – urged countries to scrap “unfavourable policy and market structures.”

See here for more information on COP25's agenda and key themes and here to read the letter from European energy majors

The prospects and challenges of solar's new era in Europe and beyond will take centre stage at Solar Media's Solar Finance & Investment Europe (London, 5-6 February) and Large Scale Solar Europe 2020 (Lisbon, on 31 March-1 April 2020).

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