The share of fossil fuels in final energy consumption has not moved an inch despite the record growth of 256 gigawatts, or 30% increase, in global renewable capacity last year, a new report from REN21 said Tuesday.
The Renewables 2021 Global Status Report shows the alarming gap between targets and actions and says the world is nowhere near the necessary paradigm shift towards a clean, healthier and more equitable energy future.
The share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is as high as a decade ago, which was then 80.3% compared to 80.2% today.
The report found that primary energy demand fell by 4% in 2020 with the slowing economic activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it said “even with this historic decline, G20 countries, the planet’s biggest polluters, barely met or even missed their unambitious renewable energy targets.”
What is alarming is that 15 of the G20 countries did not have a target, while five of the G20 countries with 2020 renewable energy targets struggled toward their goals.
The renewable energy share in the final energy mix increased slightly although renewable electricity made huge progress. Last year, almost all of the new electricity capacity globally came from renewables, according to the report.
In several regions, including parts of China, the EU, India and the United States, it is now cheaper to build new wind or solar PV plants than to operate existing coal-fired power plants, the report said.
"We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past ten years have mostly been empty words," Rana Adib, REN21’s executive director, was quoted as saying.
She urged for the strongest action to be taken in phasing out coal-fired plants and making renewables the new norm.
The report said that progress in renewables power could and should be replicated in all other sectors given the alarming gap between targets and actions.
- Make renewables a performance indicator in economic activities
The report revealed that recovery packages from the global pandemic poured money into the "brown economy", which is largely dependent on environmentally destructive forms of activity, especially fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, despite the advantages of renewables and the wave of stronger commitments to take action on the climate crisis in 2020 that included China, Japan and South Korea.
"Together with announcements of funding for a green economic recovery, taking public spending to levels higher than the Marshall Plan after World War II, this should have made 2020 the year when the world pushed the reset button for the global climate economy and renewables," the report said.
However, instead of driving transformation, recovery packages are providing six times more investment in fossil fuels than in renewable energy.
The report called on governments to make renewables a performance indicator for all economic activities because the window of opportunity is closing unless efforts are significantly ramped up.
"Governments must not only support renewables but also rapidly decommission fossil fuel capacity. A good way to accelerate development is to make the uptake of renewable energy a key performance indicator for every economic activity, every budget and every single public purchase," Adib said.
She advised that every ministry have short- and long-term targets and plans to shift to renewable energy coupled with clear end-dates for fossil fuels.
"Unfortunately, the harsh lesson from the pandemic is that most governments did not use the unique opportunity to further curtail carbon pollution and break the resistance of the fossil fuel incumbents," said Stephan Singer, senior advisor at Climate Action Network International.
"What counts for them is corporate profit – neither the climate nor people’s health," he noted.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya