The global energy system is broken, bringing the world closer to climate catastrophe. At the same time, fossil fuels are a dead end, both ecologically and economically, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, commenting on the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) State of the Global Climate 2021 report. The solution is the transformation of energy systems, Guterres noted, offering five key guidelines for the transition to renewable energy.
Guterres assessed that the latest WMO report, the State of the Global Climate 2021, was a “dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption.”
He pointed out that sea level rise, greenhouse gas concentrations, acidification, and ocean warming set new alarming records in 2021.
Guterres: we must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition before we incinerate our only home
“The global energy system is broken and closer to climate catastrophe. Fossil fuels are a dead end — environmentally and economically. The war in Ukraine and its immediate effects on energy prices is yet another wake-up call. The only sustainable future is a renewable one. We must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition before we incinerate our only home,” he said.
Transforming energy systems would provide a lifeline
To maintain the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius and prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, it is necessary to act in this decade, said Guterres. Renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar are readily available and cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels in most cases.
The price of wind energy has fallen by more than half, and the price of solar energy and batteries has dropped by 85% over the past decade
Over the past decade, the price of wind energy has declined by more than half, and the cost of solar power and batteries has decreased by 85%. The UN chief said that investing in renewable energy sources enables three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
The secretary-general warned that there is no time to waste, citing five key actions needed to jump-start the renewable energy transition.
Five urgent steps to transform toward renewable energies
The first action is that renewable energy technologies, such as battery storage, must be treated as “essential and freely available global public goods.”
Removing obstacles to knowledge-sharing and technology transfer, including intellectual property constraints, are critical to a swift and fair transition, according to Guterres.
Guterres: remove obstacles to knowledge-sharing and technology transfer, including intellectual property constraints
Renewable electricity storage is often cited as the most significant barrier in the energy transition. Therefore, Guterres urged a global coalition on battery storage to bring together governments, technology companies, manufacturers, and financiers to speed up innovation and technology implementation.
The second initiative aims to ensure, increase and diversify the supply of the most critical components and raw materials for renewable energy technologies, concentrated in several countries. Guterres noted that such solutions require concerted international coordination and a huge effort.
The third action is directed toward governments to build regulatory frameworks and level the playing field for renewable energy sources since, in many countries, the state apparatus favors fossil fuels.
He also urged governments to speed up and simplify the approval of solar and wind projects and modernize grids.
A renewable energy policy is fundamental for reducing market risk and encouraging investment in the sector. The UN secretary-general urged governments to speed up and simplify approval of solar and wind projects, modernize networks, and set ambitious renewable energy targets.
Guterres said fourthly that governments should shift subsidies from fossil fuels to protect the most vulnerable population groups. Coal, oil, and gas receive about USD 11 million a day in subsidies.
Coal, oil, and gas receive about USD 11 million in subsidies per day
Governments worldwide are investing about USD 500 billion annually in artificial reductions in fossil fuel prices, which is more than triple what renewable energy sources are getting.
Guterres: renewable energy investments must triple and reach at least USD 4 trillion annually
As the fifth guideline, the US chief stressed that private, and public investments in renewable energy sources must triple and reach at least USD 4 trillion annually.
For solar and wind energy, investment costs account for 80% of total costs, which means that current significant investments will bring huge rewards for years to come, Guterres said.
He noted that some developing countries pay for renewables seven times more in financing costs than developed countries. Blended financing is needed that provides the necessary funds to cover existing funding gaps and unlocks large sums from private investors, Guterres said.
Banks are urged to align portfolios with the Paris Agreement
The UN secretary-general urged the management and shareholders of multilateral development banks and development financial institutions to take responsibility and fully align their entire lending portfolios with the Paris Agreement no later than 2024.
Commercial banks and all elements of the global financial system must dramatically increase investment in renewable energy sources. It is the only way to real energy security, stable electricity prices, and sustainable employment opportunities, Guterres said.
The UN chief said it is time for public and private leaders to stop talking about renewable energy sources as a distant project in the future. He underlined that now is the time to initiate the transition to renewable energy before it is too late, as the WMO report clearly shows.