The supply of electricity from clean energy sources must double in the next eight years, and triple by 2050, if the increase in global temperature is to be limited, a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“Shifting to clean forms of power generation, such as solar, wind and hydropower, along with improving energy efficiency, is vital if we want to prosper in the 21st century,” Finnish meteorologist and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said as he presented the report.
He recalled that the energy sector is the source of three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and water vapour, among others) responsible for global warming, and a world goal is to reach zero net carbon emissions in 2050.
“We will only achieve this if we double the supply of low-emission electricity in the next eight years. The weather is not on our side, and the climate is changing before our eyes. We need a complete transformation of the global energy system,” said Taalas.
Heat waves and droughts are already straining existing power generation, making it even more important to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The impact of more frequent and intense extreme weather, water and climate events are already evident.
climate is changing
For example, in January 2022, massive blackouts caused by a historic heat wave in Buenos Aires affected some 700,000 people, while in November 2020, freezing rain covered power lines in Russia’s the Far East, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity for several days.
And in the United States, low water levels in the country’s two largest reservoirs, Lakes Mead and Powell in the southwest, fed by the Colorado River, are causing severe water and power supply problems.
“The weather is not on our side, and the climate is changing before our eyes. We need a complete transformation of the global energy system”.Petteri Taalas
The WMO maintains that concern about the impact of rising global temperatures on energy security is paramount in the race to net zero carbon emissions.
The goal of zero emissions or carbon neutrality will be achieved when CO2 emissions from human activities are balanced globally with their removal over a given period, the report recalled.
Regarding the issue of water stress, in 2020, according to the WMO, 87% of the electricity generated by thermal, nuclear and hydroelectric systems depended directly on the availability of water.
Meanwhile, 33% of thermal power plants that depend on the availability of fresh water for cooling are located in areas of high water stress, and this is also the case for 15% of existing nuclear power plants, a percentage that is expected to increase 25% in the next 20 years.
In addition, 11% of the hydroelectric capacity is located in areas of high water stress. And 26% of existing hydroelectric dams, and 23% of those planned, are within river basins with a medium or very high risk of water scarcity.
Nuclear power plants not only depend on water for cooling but are also often located in low-lying coastal areas – such as Turkey Point in Florida, southeastern United States – and are therefore potentially vulnerable to sea level rise and weather-related flooding.
Opportunities for green energy networks
The report also brings good news, such as the huge opportunities for green energy networks to help tackle climate change, improve air quality, conserve water resources, protect the environment, create jobs and safeguard a better future for all.
Case studies include weather early warnings that protect power supplies in Beijing, drought warnings for hydroelectric plants in Tajikistan, and climate stress tests that ensure electricity distribution in the Dolomites.
Another positive aspect is that African countries have the opportunity to take advantage of the untapped potential and be players in the market since the continent hosts 60% of the best solar resources in the world.
The report insists that renewable energy investments must triple by 2050 to put the world on a net-zero emissions trajectory, noting that in 2019-2020 most renewable energy investments were made in East Asia, Europe Western, and North America.
Developing countries are underrepresented in accessing clean energy finance.
International public financial flows to developing countries in support of clean energy and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy) declined in 2019 for the second consecutive year, falling to $10.9 billion.
This level of support was 23% below the $14.2 billion provided in 2018, 25% below the 2010-2019 average, and less than half the 2017 peak of $24.7 billion.
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