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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

'Substantial scope' to increase renewable energy ambitions, UN conference hears

The International Renewable Energy Agency, which is based in Abu Dhabi, delivered a new report during the Bonn climate change talks

An exterior view of the US Climate Action Centre during the UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany.  EPA/RONALD WITTEK
An exterior view of the US Climate Action Centre during the UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany. EPA/RONALD WITTEK

Diplomats and activists gathered at the annual United Nations climate change conference in Bonn this week have been told that there is “substantial scope” for countries to increase their renewable energy ambitions.

That was the message from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), an intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Abu Dhabi, which published a new report to coincide with the talks taking place in Germany from November 6 to 17.

The talks are the first major global climate conference since President Donald Trump announced that the US will pull out of the 2015 Paris accord unless he can secure a better deal.

Negotiators are focusing on thrashing out some of the technical details of the Paris agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While Trump has expressed scepticism, a recent US government report concluded there is strong evidence that man-made climate change is taking place.

The UN weather agency also told the conference that 2017 is set to become the hottest year on record aside from those impacted by the El Nino phenomenon.

Against this backdrop, the report from IRENA, entitled ‘Untapped Potential for Climate Action: Renewable Energy in Nationally Determined Contributions’, is particularly resonant.

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“As the global community prepares for a new round of climate negotiations under the Paris Agreement, it is critical we go in with a clear understanding of the trajectory required to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general.

“The case for renewable energy has strengthened considerably since parties first quantified the renewable energy components of their nationally determined contributions [NDCs],” he continued. “Since then, the increasing attractiveness of renewables as the lowest-cost source of new energy supply in countries around the world has fuelled unprecedented levels of deployment.”

Countries are required to update or submit new NDCs over time, each of which is designed to be progressively more ambitious than the last. With the second round of NDCs due in 2020, a ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ is set to start in 2018, which will take stock of initial progress toward the collective goals in the Paris Agreement.

The report by IRENA found that current NDCs and energy strategies can be substantially enhanced to meet global climate objectives.

Renewable energy deployment levels under current NDCs would bring online 80GW of renewable energy capacity globally each year, between 2015 - 2030. However, the current pace of deployment has seen countries install 125GW of new renewable energy capacity on average annually between 2010 and 2016, suggesting that NDCs can better reflect the global energy transition.

The report highlights that a more integrated approach would send a clearer message to the global investment community willing to invest in this sector.

“Our analysis finds that the convergence of innovation, falling costs and positive socioeconomic impacts of renewable energy – together with the climate imperative – make a compelling case for accelerating action,” Mr Amin added.

IRENA also used the platform of the UN Climate Change Conference to announce the establishment of a new facility focused on providing strategic planning and technical support to countries to raise achievable renewable energy ambitions under their NDCs.

“Given the gap we have found that exists between what countries are pledging to do under the Paris Agreement and actual progress and potential on the ground, it is clear that there is an opportunity to work with countries in a targeted fashion to ramp up both implementation and ambition,” added Mr Amin.

The talks in Bonn will continue next week. Some 20 heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are scheduled to appear at the forum, while the US also has a delegation present.