Originally posted by Ian to his LinkedIn account.
One of the big takeaways from week one has been the explosion in commitments to renewable energy. Australia was one of 118 countries to commit to tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030.
Seems good, but we’ll need A LOT of renewable energy to realise a zero-carbon economy by 2050.
The problem is renewable energy is intermittent; the sun isn’t always shining, and the wind isn’t always blowing, we’re going to need a more sophisticated approach to energy generation and usage.
Not only do we need to understand how much renewable energy we’re generating, but when. And when are we using it?
That’s why the most exciting COP announcement was the news that the US Government is joining the UN’s 24/7 carbon-free energy compact.
Why is this a big deal?
24/7 carbon-free energy is different to “100% renewable energy” in that it matches every hour of electricity consumed with carbon free sources, rather than aggregating monthly or quarterly or annual energy use and assigning an equivalent amount of renewable energy certificates, or RECs as they’re known across the industry.
24/7 carbon-free energy creates incentives for users to use energy when renewables are being generated and to limit energy use when it’s mostly fossil fuels. Rather than using RECs generated in sunny South Australia to make highly carbon-intensive Victoria brown coal “renewable”, this is a commitment to actually use renewable energy.
How much energy we use is just as important as when we use energy.
It’s why revisions of our approach to carbon accounting of scope 2 electricity emissions – be it locally via our Government’s Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin Scheme or the international review of the GHG Protocol’s Scope 2 emissions calculation – are so important.
It’s why I’m proud to be working with companies seizing this initiative and leading the way to sophisticated renewable energy use, whether it be EG Funds Real Zero commitment, Avani Solutions demand and response modules, or Circular Energy’s Sustainable Energy Commitment.
The message from the first week of COP is clear- for these ambitious renewable energy goals to be realised, we need a new approach to accounting for – and using – renewable energy.
Transitioning from fossil fuels
COP was never going to solve the climate crisis. And whilst it wasn’t without it’s fair share of controversy, the inclusion of “transition away from fossil fuels” in the text is a massive outcome.
Again, it won’t happen overnight, but this is a landmark moment on getting ourselves off fossil fuels. Even Australia was part of the coalition of the willing.
Change is iterative, and this is a landmark moment on the journey.
Look no further than loss and damage. It was expected to be omitted from Paris’ final text. I’ll never forget the sense of relief and celebration when it wasn’t.
Should it be more? Sure. Should it have happened faster? Of course, but that’s not a reason not to celebrate progress whilst keeping those sleeves rolled up and pushing onwards.
Whilst stronger language in the final text would have been great, it won’t stop the momentum of renewable energy, storage, electrification, responsible investment, clim-tech, and the growing societal awareness that the transition is unstoppable now.
Can I end on a quote from Al Gore?
“Whether this is a turning point that truly marks the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era depends on the actions that come next”
I think we all know what to do.
The importance of leadership
The COP President made waves when he said there was “no science” behind the proposed fossil fuel phase out required to restrict global warming to 1.5C. A phase out he also threatened could “take the world back into caves”.
But I thought a more interesting comment he made was at COP’s closure, “at the end of the day, it is the demand that will decide and dictate what sort of global energy source will help meet growing global energy requirements.”
Demand for fossil fuels comes in many shapes and sizes. While the global energy mix can’t say goodbye today, some elements within our society can.
One of those elements are leaders.
There is no reason for corporate leaders – businesses taking the lead when it comes to climate risk, disclosure and mitigating their carbon footprints – to still be using fossil fuels, and adding to the demand that is quite literally fuelling the fire.
Yet today, pioneering businesses at the top end of town are often doing exactly that.
Take the property sector for example. ‘Net Zero’ buildings running on ‘100% renewable energy’ are often still using natural gas for heating, and coal-generated electricity for cooling. Despite being the poster children for climate action, they are still demanding fossil fuels.
If our gold standard for climate action is still demanding fossil fuels, then what hope do the rest of us have?
We need leaders to move beyond fossil fuels, move beyond ‘net zero’, and illustrate a version of climate leadership that no longer demands gas and coal.
Thankfully these solutions are emerging, because, in the words of the COP President- “when the demand stops, that is a completely different story.”
Who will be bold enough to author a completely different story?