The COP26 meeting in Glasgow has recently concluded, and the issue now is whether the target of maximum global warming of 1.5°C can still be met. The Federal Council presented a model calculation conducted by the Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research that illustrates how the energy transition may result in the lowest cumulative emissions feasible. Instead of gradually reducing emissions, we should accelerate the transition to solar energy and operate fossil power plants at full capacity for one last time.
Theoretically, according to Empa, by speeding the transition in this way, it is still feasible to lower the likelihood of exceeding the 1.5°C climate target to less than 50%.
The Empa study assessed numerous scenarios and came to a definite conclusion: using all fossil-fuel power plants to their full capacity and investing the extra energy in creating the solar machine would be the most efficient way to action the energy transition. This entails that, surprisingly, fossil emissions may grow by up to 40% throughout the transition, but only for the purpose of creating solar infrastructure. As a consequence, the energy shift might be accomplished in five years, resulting in the lowest total emissions. After then, the fossil engine may be turned off. However, even the most rapid energy transition has a 20% risk of surpassing the 1.5°C threshold, and it could not be possible to go any lower than that.
But the importance of the energy transition in order to reach the 1.5°C is clear, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency, to meet CO2 reduction targets by 2050 a series of essential technology and innovation to accelerate the energy transition and achieve a better carbon management; supportive governmental policies to assure the active participation of both public and private actors to the transition; related job development and socioeconomic benefits; and international cooperation to ensure energy supply and access factors need to be aligned to this goal: technology and innovation are needed to accelerate the energy transition and achieve a better carbon management; supportive governmental policies appear to be the only means to assure the active participation of both public and private actors to the transition; related job development and socioeconomic benefits will secure the continuing of this international effort, and, of course, international cooperation will be key to ensure energy supply and access.
IRENA released a report in June 2021 named The World Energy Transitions Outlook, which lays forth a plan for the world to meet the Paris Agreement targets and slow the rate of climate change by restructuring the global energy landscape.
The report in question can be summarized around five key findings:
- Proven solutions for a net-zero energy system are widely available today. Renewable energy, green hydrogen, and advanced bioenergy will lead the future energy landscape.
- To stay on a 1.5°C climatic path, a blend of technologies will be needed. These include increased energy efficiency to ensure economic growth, decarbonised power systems dominated by renewables, increased use of electricity in buildings, industry, and transportation to aid decarbonisation, expanded production and use of green hydrogen, synthetic fuels and feedstocks, and targeted use of sustainably sourced biomass.
- Financial markets and investors are facilitating the energetic shift by redirecting their funds and capitals from fossil fuels towards other energy solutions, including renewables.
- Energy transition investment will need to grow by 30% beyond anticipated investment to a total of 131 trillion dollars from now to 2050, amounting to 4.4 trillion dollars per year on average.
- Socioeconomic policies will be critical in achieving the energy transition at the necessary rate to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
To conclude, a new global energy system needs to be built and the way appeared already quite clear before COP26: funds, investments and regulations will be key to this transformation, but, most of all, serious intentions and concrete actions from governmental institutions will determine this shift, and the possibility to limit the damage caused by climate change.
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