COP26: There’s No Better Time for a Clean Energy Transition than Now.
Since the advent of civilization, energy has always played a huge part in human development and continues to be very essential in every aspect of human activities including lighting, cooking, transportation, industries amongst others. Historically, energy resources usage has evolved from the discovery of fire, coal, steam engines to fossil fuels. The discovery of fossil fuels, in particular, has boosted the economies of several oil-rich countries across the globe such as the United Arabs Emirates, Venezuela, the United States, Nigeria to mention but a few.
In Nigeria for instance, the discovery of oil in the late 1950s in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State heralded a period of economic prosperity, infrastructural development, and industrialization. However, despite its positives, the continued usage of fossil fuels in addition to being linked globally to environmental degradation, oil spills, loss of livelihoods, and political instability in host communities also contributes greatly to climate change.
Climate change has become a pressing issue in recent times, as the increased emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have resulted in the dangerous rise of the earth temperature leading to erratic weather conditions, increased flooding, rising sea levels, as well as accelerated desert encroachment. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), emissions from our current global energy supply which is currently heavily fossil-fuel dependent are the second-highest contributor to climate change.
This realization has led to an increased focus global on accelerating the adoption of clean energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal as illustrated by the near-global endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which includes the goal of achieving access to clean and affordable energy worldwide by 2030. Most countries in the developing world, especially in Africa, are very vulnerable to the impact of climate change and have not been left behind in this global push for increased clean energy adoption. In Africa for instance, several countries have taken major steps towards including clean energy sources into their energy mix and urban and rural electrification efforts. Morocco currently has an installed capacity of 1220MW from wind energy. Ghana in 2011 adopted its Renewable Energy Act aimed at providing for the development, management, and utilization of renewable energy sources for the production of heat and power in an efficient and environmentally sustainable manner in the country. In Nigeria, the renewable energy space has grown greatly within the last five years due to the presence of a relatively strong regulatory framework and continued implementation of government-supported programs such as the Nigeria Electrification Program (NEP) and most recently the Solar Power Naija (SPN) project both being implemented by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA).
However, despite these developments, the world is still far off from meeting Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), largely due to several obstacles ranging from access to finance, affordability and standardization to mention but a few. In Nigeria, despite the clean energy sector attracting investments of up to $ 227 million within the past five years, there is still a funding gap of $1.5 billion needed over the next five years for the sector to scale even further. In addition, the proliferation of substandard clean energy components including solar photovoltaic panels, batteries, charge controllers, and energy meters into developing countries continues to cast doubt on potential end-users about the efficiency of climate-friendly energy solutions over their relatively cheaper fossil-fuel based counterparts.
With the world leaders coming together in the coming weeks in Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP), to deliberate and come up with stronger commitments to address Climate Change by keeping the earth’s temperature at 1.5 0C. It is very important that strengthening measures to drive increased adoption of clean energy is made a major priority during these very crucial discussions. Special attention should be on aid to taking measures around the reduction and elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, the restoration of damaged ecosystems, as well as increasing investment into renewable energy deployment, and research and development. In addition, there is also a need for improved clean energy technology transfer between developed and developing countries.
Based on our current energy infrastructure, it is estimated that the earth’s temperature could rise by 2.60c and 4.80c by 2040 and 2100. These alarming figures illustrate that stronger actions now more than ever need to be taken by the governments of the world to save the future of our planet. For this to be achieved drastic steps need to be taken to remove the barriers around a just and equitable clean energy transition and a gradual phase-out of the use of fossil fuels.
time is of the essence.
Daramfon Bassey* is the Manager, Cross-Cutting Practice at Clean Technology Hub.