- A recognition of Schneider Electric’s long-term commitment to sustainability
- Through its Schneider Sustainability Impact, the Group contributes actively to UN Sustainable Development Goals
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has appointed Jean-Pascal Tricoire, President of Global Compact France and Chairman & CEO of Schneider Electric, to the United Nations Global Compact Board. The UN Global Compact Board plays an important role in shaping the strategy and policy of the initiative, which acts as the United Nations flagship for responsible business action. Designed as a multi-stakeholder body, the Board provides ongoing strategic and policy advice for the initiative. Board members are considered champions who are willing and able to advance the mission of the UN Global Compact. They act in a personal, honorary and unpaid capacity.
A recognition of Schneider Electric’s long-term commitment to sustainability
With more than 13,000 participants – companies and non-business alike – from more than 160 countries, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, with the mission to align companies’ strategies and operations with ten universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals. With 10% of the participants, Global Compact France is its 2nd largest national network worldwide. It is also the network with the highest rate of companies meeting the Advanced COP level. “I am delighted to welcome Jean-Pascal Tricoire to the Board for the UN Global Compact. Jean-Pascal has shown great leadership in driving sustainability in a business, and with his extensive global experience, I am confident that his contribution to the UN Global Compact will be very valuable in helping the organisation to continue to thrive. I look forward to our collaboration,” said Paul Polman, Vice Chair of the Board of the United Nations Global Compact and Chief Executive Officer of Unilever.
Schneider Electric has signed on to the UN Global Compact in 2002 and consistently shown its commitment to its Ten Principles since then. In 2002, the Group published for the first time Our Principles of Responsibility, a foundational part of Schneider Electric’s commitment to its stakeholders (employees, partners, shareholders…) regularly updated since then. As a Participant of the UN Global Compact, Schneider Electric took an active approach to engage its suppliers in sustainability, by measuring the proportion of purchases made with suppliers who participate in the UN Global Compact since 2004, and by encouraging its strategic suppliers to apply the ISO26000 guidelines since 2012. Thanks to an annual Communication on Progress (COP) as part of its annual report, Schneider Electric meets the Advanced COP level.
Maximizing Schneider Sustainability Impact on UN Sustainable Development Goals
“I’m thrilled to keep contributing to the development of the UN Global Compact by joining its Global Board, four years after becoming President of Global Compact France and 16 years after Schneider Electric’s accession. As the world’s largest corporate sustainability organization, the UN Global Compact is a tremendous collective movement for companies to make progress in the fields of human and labor rights, gender equality, environment protection and ethical business through the Ten Principles and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals” said Jean-Pascal Tricoire.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. As the world approaches the third anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Global Compact is committed to be a leading catalyst of the transformation of those global goals into local business. Schneider Electric, the leader in digital transformation of energy management and automation, is actively engaged to accomplish the 17 SDGs through its core business and its five sustainability megatrends: Climate, Circular economy, Ethics, Health & Equity and Development.
To support this commitment, Schneider Electric has developed a critical instrument for its sustainability journey: Schneider Sustainability Impact. It reflects the sustainability megatrends and guides Schneider’s sustainability efforts by making our goals clear. Renewed and updated for 2018 through 2020, this fifth iteration reflects, through 21 indicators, our holistic view of sustainability, how our sustainability efforts affect the planet, its people, our profit, and that of our customers. It contains our promises to our partners, customers, and the world. It is the standard by which we measure ourselves and hold ourselves accountable. It also states clearly how the Group contributes not only to Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) but also to Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy).
Big problems require smart solutions. The Clean Power Plan, America’s first and only set of nationwide rules to reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s existing electric power system, is a smart, well-designed policy solution to one of the great market failure of our time.
However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun the long and complicated process of repealing it. Late last month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was in West Virginia to hold a public hearing and gather input on the proposed repeal.
VF Corporation, headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, with about 65,000 employees worldwide, is one of the largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies in the world. Along with our portfolio of brands, including Timberland, The North Face and Vans, we support maintaining the Clean Power Plan. We do so along with more than 365 other businesses and investors that urged the EPA to develop the Clean Power Plan, applauded it when it was finalized in 2015 and even supported litigation defending it from attacks.
“Not only do these solutions give us a competitive advantage, they help us meet growing demand among both our investors and consumers for products with smaller carbon footprints.”
Our support for the Clean Power Plan derives from our recognition of the risks of climate change to our business; our commitment to do right by our employees and our consumers; a broad consensus that the Clean Power Plan is a well-designed, efficient and effective policy; and our confidence that, working together, we can solve climate change.Addressing climate change is good for business. At VF, we source almost 1 percent of the world’s cotton for our products. A changing climate can affect cotton prices and availability, shorten winters (and ski seasons) and create a greater likelihood of extreme weather that can disrupt global supply chains.
A 2016 study from the New York University Law School’s Institute for Policy Integrity surveyed over 350 economists on future impacts of climate change. Overall, the economists surveyed believe that climate change will begin to have a net negative effect on the global economy by 2025. Further, this study found, among economists surveyed, that agriculture and the outdoor/tourism industries would be some of the most affected sectors.
The Clean Power Plan will help to reinforce current trends in falling costs for clean energy, creating add-on benefits that ripple beyond its intended scope. Affordable clean energy helps us to reduce and manage risk, cut energy costs, catalyze innovation and optimize our operations.
In 2015, VF joined (along with more than 100 other companies) the RE100 campaign, with a goal to power all our owned and operated facilities with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. Our Timberland brand also has set ambitious goals: it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from a 2006 baseline and has plans to reduce total energy use by 10 percent while increasing its renewable energy to 50 percent by 2020. VF’s headquarters for our Outdoor brands in Alameda, California, is powered by 100 percent renewable electricity. And our Vans brand’s new headquarters in Costa Mesa, California, features a 1 MW solar array system that generates roughly 50 percent of its energy needs and is expected to save millions of dollars over its 20-plus-year lifespan.
Like any business, we work hard to minimize costs, which is one reason why the Clean Power Plan makes so much sense to us. It aims to cut carbon pollution from the electric power sector 32 percent by 2030 from a 2005 baseline, and does so while creating net benefits to the U.S. economy.
“Like any business, we work hard to minimize costs, which is one reason why the Clean Power Plan makes so much sense to us.”
EPA estimates from 2015 found that the annual economic benefits ($32 billion-$93 billion) of the Clean Power Plan far exceed its costs ($5.5 billion-$8.8 billion). More specifically, they found that in many parts of the country, electricity rates actually would decline by 2030 relative to a world without the Clean Power Plan, with the potential to save consumers (PDF) up to $40 billion in electricity costs over 15 years.
We are all in this together. While climate change sometimes may feel like an insurmountable problem, the truth is that we know how to solve it, and we have the tools to do so. Acting alone is important, but it is not enough. We need policy and we need partners. That’s why we are vocal members of the Ceres BICEP Network, advocating for stronger climate and clean energy policies, and when the United States announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year, we joined more than 2,500 other businesses, investors, states, cities, universities, tribes and faith-based institutions to say “We Are Still In.”
Being “In” means that not only will we continue to meet and exceed our own corporate climate goals, but that we also will continue to push for smart policy solutions such as the Clean Power Plan.
As part of its rebranding, the Southern African Energy Efficiency Confederation is redefining its purpose and vision. We take cognizance of our current recession with its uncertainties and the constraints on investment and growth. Whilst businesses are struggling to survive and consumers are looking for opportunities to cut costs, we believe that Energy Efficiency remains core to our sustainable growth and prosperity as a country and continent. Not only does the focus on energy efficiency assist in mitigating the impending rising costs in energy, but it also will save money for businesses to survive and grow. This will foster growth and investment for the greater good and prosperity for all.
Admittedly energy efficiency is not the only sustainability solution, however, it does unlock the nexus with other energy solutions, water, food, climate change mitigation and social development. At the same time, where businesses are struggling to survive or thrive, we are looking at ways for the Confederation to be the recognised link to partnerships, addressing challenges and finding solutions that will serve the needs of its members.
At the recent United Nations Conference in Trade and Development, (UNCTAD) seminar, in which we participated, the South African achievement in energy efficiency and climate change were applauded. These achievements were a collaboration between the South African private sector and with government Other African countries also attended. However, there is still much to be done and hence the SAEE Confederation envisions being the recognized link to policies, partnerships and programmes that support energy efficiency.
The UNCTAD seminar revealed that investors are interested in the promotion of green industries, and companies who integrate some of the 17 Sustainable Development (SDGs). For more about the SDGs, CLICK HERE. As part of charting its new vision, the SDGs which bear particular importance for the Confederation are: Affordable and Clean energy; Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure; Responsible consumption and production and Climate Action. Enablers to reaching these goals include amongst others, SDGs such as Quality Education; Gender Equality and Partnerships for Goals. With both the national and global context in mind, the SAEE Confederation is in the process of implementing the following actions:
Information sharing: Rebuilding its digital platform to promote ease of access to information that will support successful implementation of Energy information and best practice. Through its annual conference and other events, the SAEE Confederation will continue to profile cutting edge information, knowledge and engagement on key issues and innovation in the industry.
Capacity Building and Networking: The Confederation is planning various platforms with government and other partners to support capacity building and networking for an improved drive towards a skilled and measurable impact on energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. Promotion of Energy Services: The Confederation is promoting the development of the Energy Services Companies’ Association (ESCOs) to build the human resource, technical and job creation opportunities required to implement energy efficiency in both the public and private sectors.
Empowerment of women: Through its South African Females in Energy Efficiency division, (SAFEE), the Confederation recognizes that a pipeline of young women need to be mentored and supported to promote inclusivity of young people and women in particular, in various roles that promote energy efficiency. It also recognizes the pivotal role played by women in social development and growth of the economy and therefore, the need to increase participation, management and ownership levels in this sector.
Measurement and Verification: In order to track progress in reaching Energy Efficiency targets and facilitating access to incentives and investments based on Energy Efficiency performance, the Confederation will continue to promote the Measurement and Verification sector.
Building Sectoral Competitiveness: Through its affiliate: Thermal Insulation Products and Services SA (TIPSASA), the Confederation encourages a sectoral approach where associations work together to optimize opportunities. Working synergistically through their value chains will enhance the competitiveness of the entire sector. The Confederation welcomes the membership of other associations who support such a common purpose.
Recognition of Excellence: Through its Energy Efficiency Awards which link to the international awards such as the Clean Energy Ministerial Awards and the American Energy Engineers Awards (AEE), the Confederation has extended its range of awards and intends enhancing the prestige of these awards in order to showcase best practice, leadership and acknowledge the hard work of those who champion continuous improvement of resource efficiency and competitiveness. CLICK HERE for more information on the awards.
If you are not yet a member of the SAEE Confederation we’d like to leave you with this quote:“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell
Great leaders protect their nations and their communities by addressing current threats, scanning the horizon for approaching storms and transforming policies as needed. They understand that being prepared, as the Boy Scouts have taught us, is the requisite of security.
Today, without any doubt, the Earth’s climate is changing. In 2016, global temperatures were the highest recorded, surpassing the previous record set only the year before. Rising seas are already threatening island nations and coastal communities. Drought has forced millions of families to migrate in search of food, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have described climate shifts as a serious potential threat to the United States.
This is a threat that we must heed. We do not want to be caught unaware and in denial like the grasshopper of Aesop’s fables.
What do we do? One approach is to wait for the government to act. This is a hazardous path. As a candidate, President Donald Trump called climate change a hoax and dismissed the Paris Agreement as misguided.
China has taken the opposite position. It has committed to aggressive emissions reduction targets and, by some reports, is already ahead of schedule. In January, China halted plans for 103 coal-fired plants. Simultaneously, it is committing billions of dollars toward a low-carbon economy, creating jobs in renewable energy and supporting emerging nations in their efforts to adapt to the onslaught of climate change.
This does not mean that we in the U.S. are paralyzed. Climate change, in fact, has ushered in a renaissance in design, land use and technology. Businesses and universities are investing in new technologies as well as new partnerships with the focused mission of solving the climate challenge, with or without the government.
Architects are designing buildings that generate more energy than they consume. Farmers are using cropland more efficiently to prevent expansion into carbon-storing forest ecosystems. And cities, businesses and universities are continuing to invest in clean-energy breakthroughs that are driving down the price of wind and solar.
“Humanity has the capacity and the ingenuity to respond to climate stress. To do so, we must remember that no great transformation has been led by government alone”
In November, immediately after the U.S. presidential election and concurrent with the United Nations climate negotiations, the worlds of innovation and tradition came together as entrepreneurs and indigenous leaders joined forces to plan decentralized action to fight climate change. The result is the Roadmap, a call to action to create new inclusive models of change to fight climate change together as a global community.
One non-technological solution put forward was simply to support the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, who control nearly 25 percent of the Earth’s surface and most of the planet’s healthy ecological systems. Their forests, if managed wisely, could capture one-third of the total amount needed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is what many scientists believe is the limit for avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
There is no doubt that humanity has the capacity and the ingenuity to respond to climate stress. To do so, we must remember that no great transformation has been led by government alone. It always has been up to private citizens to provide the solutions to back up formal policy.
Now, we push forward with that work, with or without the U.S. government. No matter what our government does, we — citizens, communities and businesses — must not hold back our creativity, urgency and investment.
This is the time for transformation without permission.
Last year, Apple announced it would invest $850 million in a solar power plant through a partnership with First Solar, one of the nation’s largest photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers and a provider of utility-scale PV plants. Through a 25-year purchasing agreement, Apple will get 130MW (megawatts, or million watts) from the new California Flats Solar Project.
The First Solar deal rocketed Apple past Walmart as the largest corporate user of solar power.
On the same day Apple joined RE100, Bank of Americaalso announced it was committing to RE100.
America’s top tech companies have been going green in a big way, so much so that the availability of clean energy resources is a key consideration in where they locate corporate offices and data centers. The move is designed to save them millions of dollars in long-term energy costs.
“We believe energy is the future of our business,” Josh Henretig, director of environmental sustainability at Microsoft, said in an earlier interview withComputerworld.
Last year, Google announced it would purchase 842 megawatts (MW) of clean energy, nearly double the clean energy it had already purchased — taking the company to 2 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy.
Put in context, 1 megawatt (MW) can power roughly 200 homes, so Google’s purchase could power about 168,000 homes. Google has pledged to triple its renewable energy purchases by 2025.
Last year, Apple also joined with 12 of the largest companies in the U.S. to launch the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a White House initiative to have corporations commit to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy, and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.
Despite only being a few months old, the RE100 collaborative already boasts corporate signups from companies in India, China, Europe and the U.S.
“Research shows that in the U.S. alone, doubling energy productivity by 2030 could save $327 billion annually in energy costs and add 1.3 million jobs to the economy, while carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by approximately 33%,” RE100 stated on its website.
“We’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” Jackson said during remarks at Climate Week in New York City on Monday. “We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we’ve been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”
Apple is also a member of The Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a trade association representing the renewable energy industry.
“We’re thrilled that Advanced Energy Economy member Apple has committed to run on 100% renewable energy and also sees the need to improve policy,” AEE CEO Graham Richard said in a statement Tuesday. “They are upping the ante as they manage their energy needs, a trend we are seeing among our corporate energy buyer members.”
Last month, Apple glass supplier Lens Technology in Beijing announced it would run its Apple operations entirely on renewable energy. The clean energy commitment by Lens was combined with a zero waste compliance agreement for all of its final assembly sites.
Solvay Specialty Polymers, which supplies Apple with antenna bands for the iPhone, also pledged to use 100% renewable energy for all of its Apple production. The commitment will cover 14 manufacturing facilities across eight countries by the end of 2018.
Catcher Technology, one of Apple’s largest aluminum enclosure suppliers, also is targeting 100% renewable power for its production of Apple goods by the end of 2018.
Altogether, Apple suppliers’ commitments to date will represent more than 1.5 billion kilowatt hours per year of clean energy used in the manufacturing of Apple products by the end of 2018, equal to the amount of electricity consumed by more than 1 million Chinese homes.
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By 2050 all buildings will have zero impact on the climate, thanks to a combination of energy efficiency measures and clean energy generation.
That is the vision of a major new project from the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), which yesterday announced plans to rapidly accelerate the trend towards ‘net zero’ certified buildings.
Entitled Advancing Net Zero, the project will initially see Green Building Councils from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden work with NGO Architecture 2030 to develop net zero certification standards and promote building technologies and techniques that drastically reduce emissions across the construction and property sectors.
Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC, said the project builds on the commitment made by 74 Green Building Councils at last year’s Paris Summit to slash emissions across the industry by 2050 in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“The success of our ambitions to keep global warming to within 1.5 to 2 degrees will depend on our ability to advance net zero buildings – those which generate clean energy and produce no net emissions,” Wills said. “Net zero buildings will be a defining contribution in our efforts to tackle climate change. Getting down to zero won’t be easy.
“This will be a long and challenging road but together with the dedication and expertise of our Green Building Councils and partners, we can create a thriving market for highly efficient buildings and make net zero the new normal.”
In addition to supporting the development of ‘net zero’ certifications, the project aims to provide ‘net zero’ training programmes for building professionals and demonstration buildings that prove ultra-low impact buildings can be successfully developed.
The group is also looking to quickly expand the project beyond the eight GBCs initially involved.
The stated long term goal is to ensure “all new buildings and major renovations should be net zero starting in 2030, meaning no buildings should be built below net zero standards beyond 2030 [and] 100 per cent of buildings should be net zero by 2050”.
In order to meet the target, the group has also set goals to train 75,000 building professionals trained in ‘net zero’ practices by 2030, rising to 300,000 by 2050, and ensure all national Green Building Councils that operate certification schemes have a net zero tool in place by 2030.
Romilly Madew, chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia, said the targets were ambitious but achievable. “We have strong and credible evidence that we can reach net zero in our built environment by 2050, while delivering healthier, more productive cities using technologies that exist today,” she said. “We have the skills, the technology and the knowledge. Now it’s time to take action.”
By Andy Challinor
The most extreme El Niño weather current in history has officially been declared over, but has left some 100 million people facing severe food and water shortages in its wake. But we cannot rest easy as another, less headline-grabbing phenomenon, is already underway.
Gradual yet steady warming of the planet is posing an equally significant threat to our food supply. Our crop breeding programmes, which develop crops that will survive in high temperatures, are simply not keeping up.
In recent years, our ability to predict future climate scenarios has improved greatly. For example, we now know that mean temperatures in Africa are expected to rise faster than the global average, and may reach as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. This is the good news: at least we know what is coming.
The bad news is that we have much less time than we might think to get our food systems prepared to adapt to these latest projections. In fact, research out this week shows that maize crops currently being bred will be out of date by the time they get into the field, in terms of their response to rising temperatures. 1.2 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America depend on maize as a staple food. Yet climate change is advancing quicker than we are able to breed and disseminate heat resistant varieties. As if breeding was not already complicated enough – needing to respond to complex cultural and market preferences – we now need to pay closer attention to future climate scenarios to ensure these improved seeds are fit for purpose.
As we face our eighth consecutive hottest month on record, we should be feeling the heat both literally and figuratively and accelerate the pace of our crop research accordingly.
A range of solutions are available to rectify this worrying situation. First, there are several opportunities for reducing the amount of time it takes to breed new crop varieties and get them into circulation – which currently stands at up to thirty years. Using marker aided-selection for example, that allows certain traits to be identified and used, as well as involving the farmers who will use the new seeds in a “participatory” breeding approach, have both shown promise for achieving this. New varieties could also be bred in warmer temperatures, so that they develop more heat stress tolerance along the way. This efficient solution is now being tested by teams in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Ethiopia and shows much promise. Mitigating future climate change to within the agreed “safe limit” will also ensure that new crop varieties can survive. This will become particularly important in the second half of this century, when changes we make now in reducing emissions will begin to show their effects.
But none of this will be possible without significant funding. The Green Climate Fund was set up at the Cancun climate talks in 2010 to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate future climate change, yet it still has not supported agricultural research (instead focusing on clean energy, water and land restoration projects). This could be one so far untapped resource.
Of course, we cannot claim that breeding alone will solve the food shortages that record temperatures are causing; indeed some crops will simply not be suitable for cultivation in some areas of the world by as soon as 2050. Improved seeds can only contribute to food security and farmer incomes if other challenges such as access to finance and market access are also addressed in tandem.
With this in mind, existing heat and drought tolerant crops can have tremendous impact on rural livelihoods especially for smallholder farmers. For example, the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project is now being used by two million farmers in 13 African countries, helping them grow enough food to feed their families and sell on the surplus – even at times when rains are erratic or scarce.
We cannot let the next phase of breeding efforts become futile. While this research only examines maize crops in certain regions of the world, it should raise alarm bells for many other global staple crops, which are also at risk of being outpaced by our changing climate. We urgently need to link climate scientists, crop modellers and breeders to identify which traits will be needed where over the next 30 years, and work collaboratively to ensure that they are successfully bred into the future crops on which we will rely.
South Africa is Africa’s clean energy frontrunner. Since 2011, it has invested R249 billion in wind and solar technology.
We are followed by Morocco, which has spent R64 billion, and Kenya, which has spent R37.3 billion.
This emerged at a talk by Michael Liebreich, chair of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a leading provider of information on clean energy to investors, energy companies and governments. He addressed a packed auditorium during African Utility Week at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Around the world, R5.1 trillion has been invested in renewable energy – including wind and solar technology – following the crash of oil and gas prices.
He started the talk by quoting business mogul Bill Gates, who said in November last year that “we need an energy miracle”. Gates committed $2 billion (R31 billion) of his own fortune to research and development into clean energy.
During discussions on global energy trends, Liebreich stressed that clean energy investment was on the rise, and that wind and solar energy would continue to become cheaper to introduce.
He admitted that changing to clean energy was like rebuilding the engine of an aeroplane in mid-flight. “In Africa, it’s even more difficult. Here, you’re attempting to rebuild the engine when you’re taking off. That’s a great challenge.”
He said African countries had clean energy investment potential, but creditworthiness of utilities remained a challenge.
“In terms of investment, a lot of work is yet to be done by African governments on the creditworthiness of utilities,” he said.
Liebreich lauded the launch of South Africa-born US entrepreneur Elon Musk’s latest electric car, the Tesla Model 3. He called it a clean energy “miracle”, a “game-changer and the most successful technology launch of all time”.
The car had attracted about 276 000 orders, worth almost $12 billion, he said.
University of Cape Town professor and energy expert Anton Eberhard took to the podium after Liebreich and said renewable energy could not be ignored.
“Renewable energy is breaking through in a way traditional power utilities cannot ignore any longer. Due to their variability, renewables are not suitable for base load generation, but they are becoming cheaper and we’ll have to maximise their contribution to the grid.”
Why should the whole world have to repeat our mistakes?
When solar farms in sub-Saharan Africa start to become more common than coal-fired power plants, it is time for the rest of the world to take notice. The clean energy revolution is happening right now under our feet.
“The rapidly unfolding energy transition is bypassing coal and going straight to low-cost renewables.”
Two centuries of burning fossil fuels brought development to much of the world, but also brought large-scale climate change and a host of severe impacts: millions of deaths from air pollution and excessive heat, lack of access to modern energy services for billions of the world’s poor and geopolitical conflicts over resources. While climate change is one of the most urgent crises of our time, extensive research indicates that the possibility of quickly switching to 100% clean, renewable energy that will mitigate these impacts is at our fingertips.
The recently signed Paris Agreement is a watershed moment for the clean energy transition. It provides the strongest market signal yet for companies and countries to double down on their renewable energy investments and to continue moving away from fossil fuels.
That change is already happening in many parts of the developing world. The rapidly unfolding energy transition is bypassing coal and going straight to low-cost renewables. As countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America seize this chance to “leapfrog” over fossil fuels and expand their clean energy capacity, they not only benefit from economic growth and cheap electricity, they also increase their security and avoid the severe damage to health and the environment that burning fossil fuels causes.
In fact, the Paris Climate Conference prompted the creation of the African Renewable Energy Initiative, a continent-wide program to massively increase Africa’s clean energy over the next 15 years while bypassing the pitfalls of fossil fuels.
As the new African Renewable Energy Initiative indicates, countries have the ability not only to leapfrog fossil fuels, but also to replace them while still keeping the lights on. Our research, conducted at Stanford University and the University of California, shows that by 2050 nearly every country in the world can transition its all-purpose energy to 100% clean, renewable wind, water and sunlight.
Africa has significant clean energy resources available that make it technically and economically feasible for 80% of the continent’s energy to be switched to renewables from fossil fuels no later than 2030.
As Africa’s current population grows from 1.1 billion to 1.6 billion by 2030, wind and solar could overtake fossil fuels as the dominant forms of energy. For example, our analysis shows that South Africa could get 56% of its electricity from utility-scale solar, Kenya 28%, and Mozambique 34%, all for lower cost than electrifying with coal. While conservative scenarios predict about half of the continent will have access to the electricity grid by 2030, this means 640 million Africans will plug into the grid for the first time thanks to renewables.
“640 million Africans will plug into the grid for the first time thanks to renewables.”
This is not just pie in the sky. Our work is based on detailed engineering and an itemized mix of technologies and costs for 139 nations, including how much land and rooftop area would be needed to add renewable technologies. Some may wonder where all of this energy will come from. The vast majority of electricity will be generated by wind and solar power: nearly a third from wind, over half from solar power (the majority utility-scale photovoltaics) and the rest via hydroelectric dams, geothermal and tidal power.
The clean energy transition will occur by electrifying everything: cars, heating, agricultural and industrial equipment can all run on electricity. Rapidly advancing battery technologyensures this power will be there when needed. Electrifying reduces power demand by about a third thanks to the efficiency of electricity over burning fossil fuels.
There is no doubt that undertaking this type of massive transformation in developing countries will be challenging. It will require sufficient financial and political support, which can be hard to come by in countries that experience political instability and low public financing. Public money will be necessary to get the ball rolling through initiatives like the public funds transfers from developed countries to developing ones, set up by the Paris Agreement. These funds will open the door for trillions of dollars of private sector investment.
The benefits of achieving this transition are global. They include eliminating 4 to 7 million premature air pollution deaths per year—similar to the annual deaths caused by smoking. It would provide steady power to four billion people that do not currently have it, and create over 20 million long-term clean energy jobs. Turbocharging the clean energy transition is also critical to tackling climate change.
Countries that choose to skip past fossil fuels in favor of renewables avoid increased healthcare costs and see stronger job growth and greater political stability. The clean energy transition will avoid air pollution costs that that are over 3% of annual world GDP, and prevent $16 to $20 trillion per year in global climate costs by 2050.
“The main barriers to a more rapid conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political.”
The main barriers to a more rapid conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political. As Western leaders like President Francoise Hollande of France acknowledge, there is a huge opportunity for developing countries to move immediately to new, clean energy technologies. The moment is ripe for international policymakers to leverage the Paris Agreement’s strong market signal and accelerate the current progress. The roadmaps to clean energy that we have developed give confidence to world leaders that the path to 100% renewable energy is clear and achievable. Much of the world is already heading down that path to a clean energy future. The more we support that transition, the better off we all are.
Mark Jacobson is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of its Atmosphere and Energy Program. Jacobson develops computer models about the effects of different energy technologies and their emissions on air pollution and climate. He is a Senior Fellow at both the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford. He’s also the co-founder of the nonprofit Solutions Project.
The climate agreement reached in Paris is provoking a flurry of caveats, criticisms and cautions. Many of those criticisms are warranted and there’s a lot of work ahead to make sure countries live up to their promises. But we should not miss a chance to celebrate a historic turning point.
World leaders finally made commitments to clean, renewable energy that will help to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for us all. The agreement signals that the age of fossil fuels is coming to a close, and the age of renewable energy is dawning.
In many ways, the Paris deal is the mother of all market signals. To deliver on the promises world leaders made, we will need to leave coal and oil in the ground and move toward a complete reliance on clean energy. Let’s not miss the writing on the wall: fossil fuels are a losing bet, while renewables offer economic opportunity.
This is true for all segments of society – from energy investors to individual households that can save money on their energy bills by switching to rooftop solar power.
The Paris pact ratifies an ongoing renewable energy revolution spreading across the globe. Each year since 2013, the world has added more power-generating capacity fueled by renewable sources than from coal, natural gas and oil combined. Global investment in renewable energy hit $310bn last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And major companies are pledging to go 100% renewable, too.
Much of that growth in clean, renewable energy has come from the subnational movement, in which cities, states and regions are banding together and leading even if their national governments are lagging. This bottom-up approach – one that so many people around the world are already part of – is what was most alive about Paris.
It is what drove so many people to COP 21 this year, and is the driving force that makes so many hopeful. In my home state of New York, for example, we have a robust movement to ban fracking, courageously embraced by governor Andrew Cuomo, and we support his leadership on renewable energy. We have found a new way of approaching this problem. Whole towns, communities and cities are racing to a full reliance on renewable energy, despite the gridlock in Washington, DC. This is where so many sense real hope coming out of Paris.
Meanwhile, cities from London to Los Angeles, from Jakarta to Rotterdam, are pioneering innovative approaches to cutting their own carbon footprints. Momentum is growing, too: following the meeting, Republicans and Democrats in San Diego, America’s eighth largest city, unanimously agreed to transition to 100% clean energy.
What cities are doing, countries can do, too. As my co-founder at The Solutions Project, Stanford professor, Mark Jacobson, told the US Congress last month, transitioning to 100% clean energy is not only good for the environment, human health and the economy, it is doable. His team has developed roadmaps showing exactly how 139 countries can each completely transition to renewable energy by 2050 using technology we have right now.
The Paris climate agreement brings that vision – of a world where all people have access to 100% clean energy – closer to reality. Much more has to go right if nations are to fulfill their promises over the coming years. But finally, the wind is at our backs.
The voices of people gathered in Paris – from big-city mayors intent on making urban life better, to indigenous people and small island countries fighting for their right to live in some of Earth’s most unspoiled places – echoed hundreds of millions of voices, all around the world, demanding action.
In response to those demands, world leaders have finally agreed to steer us away from a climate disaster. This is a moment of real hope. It is a recognition, at long last, that we’re all in this together.
And as negotiators in Paris acknowledged, some countries will need financial help to move to renewable energy. But the payoff for investing in them – through mechanisms such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund – will be tremendous. Just as poorer nations skipped landline phones for mobile telephones, they can skip generations of coal-fired power plants for clean, renewable power.
In wealthy nations we benefit from the switch to renewables, too. The United States has tripled wind and solar capacity since 2008, and last year, we installed as much solar-generating capacity every three weeks as we did in all of 2008. That translates into job growth – the solar industry already employs more people than the coal industry, by some measures – as well as cleaner and healthier air.
Critics of the Paris deal are right to point out that it cannot “solve” climate change on its own. Countries will have to work hard to fulfill the promises they made last week, and set even more ambitious targets in the future. And the people of the world must stay engaged, doing their part to tackle climate change while holding political and economic leaders accountable.
There is much to be done. But after years of walking in circles, Paris was a giant step in the right direction. Now the renewable energy race is on, and we need to run – not walk – to the finish line.