The world already has more than enough renewable energy potential to comfortably make the transition away from fossil fuels to meet the Paris climate goals and keep global warming within the reach of 1.5ºC, a new report said Thursday.
The Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy report by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney and Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative revealed that existing coal, oil and gas production puts the world on course to overshoot Paris climate targets.
Even if no new fossil fuel projects were built from today onwards, carbon emissions from existing projects are still far too high to stay on course towards meeting 1.5ºC, the report found.
The world can produce significantly more fossil fuels than it can afford under a 1.5ºC climate goal by 2030, leading to 66% more emissions in 2030 than is compatible with 1.5ºC.
Therefore, the world needs to actively wind down existing coal mines and oil and gas wells while increasing renewable energy, the report said.
"As the cost of renewables has dropped, the economic potential for renewables has grown alongside technical potential. Even when taking into account environmental safeguards, land constraints and technical feasibility, solar and wind energy could power the world more than 50 times over," the report said.
The report echoed the sentiments of the International Energy Agency, which stressed the need to stop investments and expansion of fossil fuels worldwide.
"A practical pathway exists where there are no new fossil fuel projects, existing projects are phased out, emissions are kept within a 1.5°C budget and energy access becomes universal, all while using existing and increasingly cost-competitive technologies," Deputy Director for the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, Rebecca Byrnes was quoted as saying.
"The hurdle is no longer economic nor technical. Our biggest challenges are political. A cleaner future is within reach and, while international cooperation is essential for innovation and investment, nation-states can and should act now to regulate fossil fuel production decline," she said.
- Electricity to account for 65% of global energy demand by 2050
The continuation of the expansion of the fossil fuel sector will result in further infrastructure becoming stranded assets, and will lead to devastating climate and humanitarian consequences, the report warned.
According to the report, the world population is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, while global energy demand is expected to see a decrease of 27%.
For renewables to meet global energy demand, the construction of 500 gigawatts of solar and 350 gigawatts of wind capacity is anticipated by 2050.
By 2050, electricity is forecast to account for 65% of global energy demand, therefore electricity generation is expected to more than double while solar power generation is expected to increase 23 times and wind 14.5 times over.
"There are no more excuses to further delay accelerated uptake of renewable energy and ending the age of fossil fuels," Sanjay Vashist, director of South Asia at Climate Action Network, said.
He called on G7 leaders to set an example and shut down coal plants in their countries immediately and assist the developing world in the transition to renewable energy.
"At a time when renewable energy has emerged as a reliable and cost-effective alternative, to continue to expand the fossil fuel sector is a criminal waste of money that will have devastating climate and humanitarian consequences, especially on the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable people of the global," Vashist said.