By Jon Qeally, CommonDreams, September 21, 2015
With scientists and experts from around the world telling world leaders with increasing urgency ahead of upcoming climate talks in Paris that "It must be done," a new report says "It can be done."
As the planetary impacts of global warming become more apparent with every passing day, the goal of building and maintaining an energy system run on 100 % renewable power has become one of the driving demands of the world's environmental and climate justice movements, new research presented by Greenpeace on Monday shows that if the political will can be mustered, there are neither technological nor economic barriers preventing humanity from building a fossil fuel- and nuclear-free world by 2050.
"The phase out of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy is not only needed, but can be achieved globally by mid-century," said Kelly Mitchell, the climate and energy campaign director for Greenpeace USA. "In the US, we must prioritize keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground while accelerating the transition to clean energy like wind and solar. Doing so would both create new jobs and ensure a healthier planet for future generations.”
According to the report:
100% renewable energy for all is achievable by 2050, and is the only way to ensure the world does not descend into catastrophic climate change. Dynamic change is taking place in the energy sector. Renewable energies have become mainstream in most countries, and prices have fallen dramatically. The report shows we could transform our energy supply, switching to renewables, which would mean a stabilization of global CO2 emissions by 2020, and bringing down emissions towards near zero emissions in 2050.
Produced in collaboration with researchers at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the new Greenpeace report—titled World Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook 2015—is the latest global energy analysis which shows that not only is the transition to cleaner energy sources possibly in the coming decades, the actual financial costs of taking on a such a massive transition would actually be cheaper over the coming decades than retaining the "dirty energy" status quo in the face of climate change.
Greenpeace admits the cost of its plan is "huge" but that "the savings are even bigger." According to their estimates, the global average of additional investment needed in renewables is roughly $1 trillion a year until 2050. However, because renewables don’t require continuous fuel inputs, the savings over the same period would be $1.07 trillion a year, more than covering the costs of the required up-front investment.
Calling for a strategic phase-out of both fossil fuel and nuclear energy by mid-century, the Greenpeace plan targets the most carbon-intensive fossil fuels first—including lignite and coal—before moving on to less-polluting sources like oil and gas.
"We must not let the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying stand in the way of a switch to renewable energy, the most effective and fairest way to deliver a clean and safe energy future," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. "I urge all those who say ‘it can’t be done’ to read this report and recognize that it can be done and must be done for the benefit of people around the world.”
What's more, the group says, this energy transformation would be a source of millions upon millions of jobs, more than enough to replace those lost by the shuttering of the coal, oil, and gas industries.
The report says that nearly 20 million jobs in the renewable energy sector could be created between now and 2030, because of strong growth and investment in renewables. The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry alone, the research estimates, will provide 9.7 million jobs, equal to the number of people now working in the coal industry today. In the wind sector—which has shown unprecedented growth in recent years--job growth will continue grow to over 7.8 million jobs, twice as many as are employed in oil and gas today.
"The solar and wind industries have come of age, and are now cost competitive with coal," said Greenpeace’s Sven Teske, the lead author of the report. "It is very likely they will overtake the coal industry in terms of jobs and energy supplied within the next decade. It’s the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry to prepare for these changes in the labor market and make provisions. Every dollar invested in new fossil fuel projects is high risk capital which could end up as stranded investment.”
With the UN climate talks in Paris fast-approaching, Greenpeace says the urgency of the crisis must compel political leaders to finally act—and act boldly—on the message that the scientific community and civil society leaders have been issuing with growing levels of intensity in recent years.
With their new report as a blueprint for what's possible, said Naidoo, "the Paris climate agreement must deliver a long term vision for phasing out coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy by mid-century, reaching the goal of 100% renewables with energy access for all.”