Renewable Energy

UNEA-6: Rapid adoption of renewables critical for a climate-resilient world, say experts

At the same time, a balance must be struck between the need for and limits of development, they add

 
By Maina Waruru
Published: Wednesday 28 February 2024
Photo: @andersen_inger / X

A rapid adoption of Renewable Energy (RE) sources is critical in order to achieve a climate-resilient world and to halt the effects of climate change, experts said at a side event on energy transition during the ongoing Sixth United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-6) in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

While some RE projects will initially entail a level of negative effects such as change of land use and loss, it is a fact that the world needs to quickly make the shift if it ever hopes to decarbonise the energy sector, they added.

The world was nearing a limit in terms of what level of development-related impacts it could take. This called for systemic change and an acceleration with regard to energy transition.

“It is an undeniable fact that we need to hasten the uptake of RE and decarbonise nature. At the same time, we must understand and strike a balance  between the need for and limits of development,” said Jose Rubio, senior technical specialist at conservation charity, Fauna and Flora International.


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However, there was a need to develop globally acceptable RE standards, spelling the best practices on how best to utilise RE for powering development around the world, he explained. This was to be done in order to minimise risks that projects posed to the environment.

The world needs three times the RE that it currently has by 2030. No efforts should be spared in trying to transition to renewables in order to halt the climate change crisis, Rubio said at the side event.

Developing standard best practices in the mining sector was also important. This was because on-site impacts on the environment were usually high and often harmful in the sector, the expert observed. He called for “responsible sourcing” of minerals.

“We need to entrench circularity as a new paradigm in the mining sector, and extend the life chain of minerals,” he said.

While there was no doubt that the time for renewables had arrived, the same had low profitability when compared to traditional energy sources. This, according to biodiversity expert at energy conglomerate TotalEnergies Steven Dickinson, called for companies to adopt alternative business models.

A low return on investment was one of the impediments in the transition to RE. Taking care of it would make more business sense and attract more companies to make the shift, he said during the sessions on Ensuring that the energy transition contributes to a nature and people positive planet.

Dickinson added that TotalEnergies was striving to make investments worth $5 billion in REs every year, in appreciation of the risks posed to nature by fossils and other non-climate friendly energy sources.

By 2050, the conglomerate intended to increase renewable electricity production by 75 per cent. It planned to achieve this goal by producing 5 gigawatts of power globally each year, said Dickinson.

“There’s no doubt that the world must increase the pace of making the switch to REs in appreciating the roles they play in decarburisation of economies,” he said during the event hosted by Fauna & Flora in collaboration the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association and the International Council on Mining and Metals.

According to Rachel Asante, a programme manager at IUCN, tackling climate change will require growth of RE investment in all parts of the world and the conservation umbrella body was working with governments to make sure that they understood the importance of supporting the shift.

The organisation was encouraged by the fact that there were positive moves for RE by governments around the world. Asante singled Egypt as being among countries that were very ‘positive’ in embracing RE.

Investment in the sector, however, meant that it came with some level of environmental risks that needed to be mitigated. IUCN was developing new standards for REs to make sure that projects were environmentally sustainable, she said.

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