“Tackling resource scarcity and climate change and providing a great quality of life for the 21st centuries many people – is a challenge that can only be met by a combination of good public policy and business innovation and investment. This clean revolution is the next wave of industrial transformation that will spur economic growth and deliver the jobs of tomorrow.”
Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA
The science is clear that, after two centuries of burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases at an exponentially increasing rate, the earth’s climate is changing. Anthropogenic warming is disrupting a number of natural systems on which we depend, with predicted effects of temperature increases above 2°C to include more extreme weather events, sea level rises, precipitation changes, and ocean acidification.
International climate change negotiations are not presently delivering on this 2 degree challenge which makes accelerated investments in solutions by business, financial institutions, nations and cities even more crucial.
Climate change is not the only reason to invest in the transition to a clean energy future; We are also entering an era of resource scarcity defined by shortages of land, water and energy, that presents profound challenges.
The majority of the world’s energy is created through the combustion of hydrocarbons, the global supply of which is ultimately finite. In recent years, reserve depletion has led to increasing exploration of unconventional sources such as tar sands and shale gas, each of which carries higher economic and environmental costs than conventional sources.
Meanwhile research suggests that only 20% of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves can be burnt by 2050 if we are to have an 80% chance of staying below 2 degrees of global warming. We know this at a time when the value of global fossil fuel subsidies are approximately US$700 billion per year whilst IEA estimates that renewable subsidies are approximately US$57 billion. We can no longer continue down this path of unsustainable economics and perverse incentives.
“We could end up legally bound to a 4 degree world. And that would be catastrophic.”
WWF Director General Jim Leape on the status of international climate negotions, Durban, December 2011
Solutions do exist and can be enacted with the right combination of political, social and financial will. WWF’s 2011 Energy Report demonstrates that all of the world’s energy needs could be provided cleanly and renewably, in ways that can be sustained by the global economy and the planet, and that such a transition is not only possible but cost-effective.
Though there has been impressive growth in clean-tech over recent years, this progress is not enough for the transformation we need to see. WWF Energy Report estimates that globally we need to reach energy efficiency and renewables investment levels of €1000 bn in this decade if we are to reach a 100% renewable future by 2050 and stay well below a 2 degrees temperature change.
In order to accelerate progress we need to look at the conditions surrounding our solution providers. We will need to see a wide range of innovative cleantech solutions scale up fast over the next 10-30 years. Agencies, governments, investors and business need to proactively collaborate as forces for change in transitioning towards a sustainable energy future on a global level.
Understanding these innovation processes and the cleantech market must therefore be a complement to the establishment of national climate targets and international carbon caps .
Samantha Smith - Leader, WWF Global Climate and Energy Initiative
Stefan Henningsson - Strategic Advisor Climate Innovation, WWF