>Eiffel tower image via thatgirl/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week

  1. Chart: expected renewable energy deployment in member states compared to their 2020 EU renewable energy targets.
Source: European commission
  1. Article: The Way Humans Get Electricity Is About to Change Forever – These six shifts will transform markets over the next 25 years.
  1. Article: Tories to end onshore windfarm subsidies in 2016 – Planned turbines in jeopardy after government announces plans a year early. 

 

With fewer than six months to go until the UN climate summit in Paris, it’s worth asking: what’s been achieved in this very significant year for action on climate change? Recent news has certainly been positive, and from unusual suspects.
 
Wednesday saw the Dutch government set a new emissions target in a landmark judgement by their courts – a reminder to politicians of their constitutional duty to safeguard the environment and protect their citizens (I’ve written more on this here – and discussed its significance here). In fact three quarters of the world’s constitutions include some provision on the protection of the environment.
 
This ruling comes just a week after Pope Francis made a strong moral judgement on inaction on climate change, calling for a swift and fair transition from fossil fuels. He even went viral, partly due to phrases like “the earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”. The divestment movement is still in full swing, too.
 
As demand for action gains ground, how are our current efforts measuring up? New analysis from the IEA shows that that nearly half of new worldwide electricity capacity added in 2014 was renewable, while Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecasts renewables will supply 56% of global power by 2040.
 
But even with this rollout of renewables the BNEF forecasts suggest the climate is still, in their words, “screwed”: current emissions reduction promises are far from enough to keep warming below 2C. Reasons for this are rapid demand growth in developing countries, causing coal capacity to mushroom despite an impressive renewable investment boom. The optimistic idea of natural gas as a bridging fuel is dismissed by BNEF as a lacking solution.
 
In Britain the government is now honouring its election pledge to axe subsidies for onshore wind, currently the cheapest form of renewables, a year early. This casts doubts over whether Britain will be able to meet its 2020 target of 15% renewable energy at a low cost. The UK is now listedas the EU country furthest from its 2020 target, something that may undermine any strong words in advance of the Paris talks.
 
While the science, the technology and the economics are all in favour of a transition, inaction and low ambition still rule the political game. When will our elected representatives catch up?
 
Related Reports and Commentary
Energy and Climate Change – International Energy Agency