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From Talk to Action: Scaling the Deployment of Renewable Energy Globally

A globally-agreed goal to ‘triple up and double down’ on renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030 can keep the worst of warming at bay.
“43 Days to Go”

With 43 days until COP28, diplomats and policymakers are intensifying efforts to agree upon a path that will keep the world within 1.5˚C. The summer of 2023 was confirmed the hottest one on record by NASA  and climate impacts hindered livelihoods and communities worldwide, from New York to South Africa to Myanmar — we have entered the season of superlatives. The evidence is all around us — the time to deliver solutions is now.

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) level, attention is fixed on setting up an appropriate response to the release of the first Global Stocktake (GST) in Dubai, inviting the international community to seize this opportunity and work towards ramping up climate commitments and transforming them into action.

A global renewable energy target is a good place to start.

The origins of a new renewable energy goal

Momentum for the establishment of a global renewable energy target at COP28 started to build early in 2023. Danish Global Climate Policy Minister Dan Jorgensen introduced the need for a renewables target during the European Union meeting in Copenhagen. One month later, at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate hosted by the United States, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took the opportunity to consolidate the European Union’s (EU) position. “Today, I would like to launch a new initiative to work together towards global targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy,” she said. “We could develop these targets by COP28.”

The research community followed suit. The release of the latest World Energy Transition Outlook (WETO 2023) by IRENA and the IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) concluded that tripling the renewable energy uptake is possible and will keep us under 1.5˚C of warming.

At the Bonn intersessional meetings, incoming COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber solidified the international efforts and set out a detailed COP vision calling on state and industry partners to deliver an ambitious energy package. “Our approach starts with taking collective ownership of the global stocktake,” he stated, “we must be brutally honest about the gaps that need to be filled, the root causes and how we got here and apply a far reaching, forward looking, action-oriented, and comprehensive response to address these gaps.”

Doubling down and tripling up
Bruce Douglas of GRA and Jon Creyts of RMI.
Bruce Douglas of GRA and Jon Creyts of RMI.

In efforts to centralize the conversation and be inclusive to all energy stakeholders, RMI and 250 other organizations joined the Global Renewables Alliance in the launch of their campaign, 3xRenewables by 2030 in New York on September 18th.

The Alliance asserts that a global target will send a clear market signal to governments, industry, investors, and civil society on the unprecedented scale of renewable energy required by the end of this decade.

The campaign calls to action all energy sector stakeholders to triple renewable energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts (GW) while doubling energy efficiency by 2030, a goal summed up by their slogan: “Double down and triple up.”

Details regarding the global renewable target still need ironing out, including the base year for energy efficiency targets and determining how deployment of renewables can be coupled with a fossil fuel phaseout. These discussions are likely to take center stage in Dubai and should be informed by the GST outcome, as government leaders are expected to enhance ambition to be translated into revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and national climate strategies.

Meanwhile, it is important to keep open channels of conversation that will fuel clean energy momentum and mobilize climate stakeholders inside and outside the UNFCCC negotiation tables. The renewables industry, investors, and civil society must work collaboratively with governments and policymakers to solve existing barriers to global energy deployment.  That is exactly what the 3xRenewables by 2030 target strives to do.

Live from New York
Charles Wanguhu, director of Enzi Ijayo Africa addresses an RMI-hosted panel during New York Climate Week.

On the last day of New York Climate Week, RMI packed the house for its event “Tripling global clean energy capacity by 2030: Is it enough? Is it possible? Will it be fair?” Panelists engaged in lively discussions on how to get the international community to adopt such ambitious targets and how to ensure implementation will hit the ground running while leaving no one behind.

Daniele Violetti, senior director, programmes coordination at the UNFCCC opened the event by steering away from the sobering messages from the IPCCC Sixth Assessment Report and instead focusing on opportunities for climate leadership. He highlighted that the solutions to the energy transition exist and should be focused on two key areas: 1) reducing pollution from greenhouse gases and 2) cost efficiency.

As RMI’s recent publication, X-Change: Electricity makes clear, renewable energy includes both solutions and should be deployed rapidly and at scale. “Solar and wind costs are going down very rapidly, and we expect this to continue,” said RMI principal Laurens Speelman during his presentation of the report’s findings.

As RMI CEO Jon Creyts, moderator of the session, put it: “We have the technology, we have the solutions, we just need to bring them to scale right now.”

Looking ahead

The experts brought together during the Climate Week event focused their conversations on the benefits presented by the global renewable energy goal. There was general agreement that the global target would drive market confidence and facilitate access to low-cost capital, allowing countries to build out the necessary renewable energy deployment to keep us on track.

However, the question of access to these new investments still lingers. In Africa, interest rates are up to three times higher than in developed countries, affecting the affordability and feasibility of renewable energy deployment to their communities.  Developing countries need support in de-risking and enhancing the attractiveness of their energy projects for investors, without extensive financial burden, to ensure a just energy transition.

During Africa Climate Week in early September, countries proposed new financing mechanisms to restructure Africa’s debt, unlock climate finance, and seize opportunities to expand existing projects. “Africa is at a tipping point,” Charles Wanguhu, Director of Enzi Ijayo Africa Initiative said, and warned that if renewables do not fill the void, fossil fuels will.

“In our bilateral, multilateral engagements we support the energy transition in Africa with public money, living up to our climate finance commitment, which Germany certainly is,” said Dr. Vera Rodenhoff, deputy director general of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. “Already in 2022 we delivered our $6 billion annually for the $100 billion target that was pledged to developing countries.”

RMI is committed to working with our partners around the world on strengthening enabling environments and the support framework for renewables to flourish while simultaneously phasing out fossil fuels. Directing investment in de-risking energy projects including supporting regulatory frameworks and market creation will help unlock substantial capital and yield to the greatest return on investment.

As Antha Williams, head of the Environmental Program at Bloomberg Philanthropies noted, “We must stop looking at Africa and countries across Africa as victims and recipients, but instead [at] the incredible investment opportunities where we are going to need this energy for all productive uses and growing economies and populations.”

Couldn’t catch our Climate Week discussion in person? Watch the full event in the player below.