Climate change action has just been given an official round of applause: the International Energy Agency (IEA) has declared that over 26% of the world’s energy supply will come from renewable energy sources by the end of the decade.
U.S. President Obama recently made a trip to Alaska to highlight the effect that man-made (anthropogenic) climate change is having on the planet. Unfortunately, with climate change deniers placed in key political positions, and armed with a well-funded, relentless campaign of misinformation, attempts for the U.S. to act on climate change – without the President resorting to using executive action – are frequently obstructed by Congress.
Despite this depressing situation involving one of the world’s largest producers of carbon emissions, the IEA is confident that a quarter of the entire world will be powered by clean, renewable energy sources by 2020. The world’s foremost nonpartisan advisory body on energy describes this as a “remarkable shift in a very limited period of time,” adding in the report’s executive summary that “renewable electricity expanded at its fastest rate to date in 2014 and accounted for more than 45% of net additions to world capacity.”
This remarkable juxtaposition between American obstructionism and this prediction appears to be mostly due to the government policy of various nations across the globe to take mandated action on energy policy and climate change. The most recent prominent example of this is Sweden, whose government took the laudable step of planning to become the world’s first fossil fuel-free nation through legislative action.
According to the IEA, by 2020, the world’s total generation of energy through renewables could satisfy the demand of Brazil, China and India, three of the most populous nations on Earth. The organization claims that government policies are driven by the need to have energy security – generating enough energy for their country’s demand, and reducing their reliance on importing energy from volatile regions.
In addition to this, the genuine desire to reduce local pollution and combat climate change appears to be gathering pace: Government-funded incentives to produce more renewable energy-generating power stations and increasing the tax on carbon-emitting power sources are on the uptick.
Onshore wind is leading the global surge in renewable energy production, accounting for over a third of the observed capacity and generation spike. Solar power accounts for another third, and hydroelectric power produces a fifth of new renewable power generation. The cost of constructing renewable energy power stations, wind turbines and solar panels is also decreasing in the medium term.
China, currently holding the ignominious title of the world’s largest producer of carbon emissions, is actually leading the pack here: They are responsible for 40% of global renewable capacity growth – enough to power the United Kingdom three times over. A recent joint agreement with the U.S. on climate change is, despite its record, changing global perception of China’s efforts to deal with global warming. There is, of course, a long way to go, but this report is welcome news in the lead up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference that's being held in Paris at the end of November.