For 4 hours on the opening day of the World Future Energy Summit and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, I attended a high-level event aimed at turning the ambitious goals of COP21, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into practical and innovative policy, investment, technology, and partnership solutions. The video below, and my summary of some of the highlights from Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and Adnan Z. Amin(Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency , aka IRENA), is of one of the panels from that "Global Action Day" segment. Other panelists included: Mogens Lykketoft, President of the United Nations General Assembly; Abdelkader Aâmara, Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, Kingdon of Morocco; Dr. Rashid Ahmad bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water; Laurence Tubiana, Ambassador and Special Representative of the French Government for COP21. The moderator was Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board, Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Christiana Figueres highlighted in her answers to moderator Michael Liebreich the connections between the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) and climate goals. At least 5 of the sustainable development goals essentially determine whether the climate goals are reached (energy, economic growth, industrial innovation, infrastructure, and cities & communities). Additionally, there are 3 SDGs that will be so strongly affected by climate change that Figueres contends we will never be able to solve if we don't stop catastrophic climate change: poverty, health, and hunger.
Figueres also highlighted that climate change, unlike all of the SDGs, has a ticking clock. She says, “We have to address climate, and in fact… we have to address climate change in an even faster way than our wonderful and well beloved Paris agreement says. Because we have to reach peaking very, very quickly in order to protect the most vulnerable and in order to protect developing countries. So that is the ticking clock that we have here.”
Naturally, Figueres and others highlighted that a key now is fleshing out and implementing INDCs in an ambitious matter.
She also highlighted that it’s not just market forces alone that are going to create change, but that, “We have to create those market forces. We need to create all of the conditions so that the market then moves in the way that we know it has to move.”
Adnan Z. Amin made some excellent statements as well that I want to focus on, including comments that there’s now “more capacity addition in the power sector from renewables every year than from nuclear and fossil fuel combined… but it’s still not enough.”
He also noted there are now 164 renewable energy targets from countries worldwide. And he highlighted two goals: doubling of renewable energy additions by 2030, providing 50% of the industry’s necessary carbon reductions, and another 50% reductions in CO2 emission from energy efficiency improvements. These energy efficiency improvements presumably include electrification of transport, since electric cars are 3–4 times more efficient than fossil-powered cars and IRENA does focus quite a bit on this sector.
The three places where Adnan highlighted progress is particularly needed were in 1) policy, 2) finance (particularly, reducing the cost of capital for solar projects), and 3) technology.
One of the most interesting statements from Adnan, however, was about the importance of domestic policy compared to international policy. He noted that the biggest US solar company saw a 3% increase in its stock price following the COP21 success, but then a 30% increase after the solar ITC was extended for 5 years. Jump to 22:08 into the video for his statements regarding that.
Adnan pulled out geothermal power and hydropower as key renewable energy options that deserve more support than they’ve been getting.
Michael Liebreich's concluding remarks summarizing some of the key remarks were on point, but then he added an important extra point: the need for leaders. This is a critical one we should all keep in mind, as it may inspire more of us to become leaders. Naturally, Michael was also keen to thank the leadership of the people on the panel.
Also see: Global Action Day Panel, Part 2 (Video)