“Code red for humanity” – how the IPCC report will accelerate renewables and clean energy

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) latest report again confirmed that global warming is being driven by human activity.

The warning, that the UN Secretary-General called “code red for humanity”, has reinforced the fact that there needs to be a global response and that it must be immediate if we are to act with any success against the threat of climate change.

Accounting for over two-thirds of global greenhouse emissions, energy must be at the very heart of that response. In order to mitigate the impacts of climate change, we must use every low and zero-emissions technology in our arsenal to help fuel the world.

There is no doubt therefore that the stark warnings in this report will accelerate renewable and clean energy technologies, meaning jobs in these areas will grow at an astronomic rate.

In order to meet the ambitious yet necessary targets set at the 2015 Paris Agreement and prevent exceeding the internationally agreed threshold of a 1.5 degree C increase in global temperatures, we will need to utilise carbon capture and storage and change the energy infrastructure to generate more power from renewable or clean energy sources.

We will also need to fuel-switch domestic boilers to run on hydrogen or electrify homes.

A whole range of different technologies will be needed – some of which are not even on the market yet. And the innovation and adoption of these technologies must be vastly accelerated.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) carried out assessments of the market readiness of 400 different technologies that will be needed to meet net-zero emissions by 2050 but only around half are currently available to the market.

In order to reach the targets by 2050, a huge amount of innovation will have to take place in order to bring those technologies to market.

The IEA’s roadmap to net-zero by 2050 proposes that by 2045 those new technologies will have to be widely adopted.

This includes the majority of cars running on electricity or fuel cells, advanced biofuels and synthetic fuels powering planes, and industrial plants across the globe utilising carbon capture or hydrogen.

The organisation also predicts that 50% of heating will be fuelled by heat pumps.

By 2050, it postures, 90% of global electricity generation will come from renewables and solar will be the single largest source of energy supply. Government and private sector investment across the globe is critical and the IPCC report will go a long way to pushing that to happen. 

This all points to a huge energy revolution over the next few years – a complete transformation of the global energy system no less – with new technologies creating a slew of new jobs.

Renewable technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines have risen massively and will continue to do so. There are now 51 carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects either already in existence or in the planning stages.

Geothermal, hydroelectricity, hydrogen & fuel cells, tidal and wave technologies will also play a huge part in helping to reach global net-zero emissions, as well as energy-efficient building retrofits.   

The adoption of renewable energy, the roll-out of carbon capture and storage projects and ramping up of energy efficiency solutions won’t just help us to meet global emissions targets and tackle climate change, it will boost economic growth following the devastating effects of the pandemic.

Post-pandemic recovery will be fuelled by the millions of green jobs created across the world. This decade will see the largest expansion of clean energy innovation and adoption ever undertaken and it will only accelerate over the following two decades if we are going to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

There will be huge opportunities in an incredibly wide range of green jobs, some of which are yet to be created.

Many oil and gas jobs which may become obsolete over the coming decades will easily transition into renewables and a growing number of companies are beginning to side-step into CCUS projects.

Furthermore, renewable energy should create more jobs than fossil fuel industries. Studies have found that, on average, 2.65 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs are created from $1 million spending in fossil fuels, while the same amount of spending would create 7.49 FTE jobs in renewables and 7.72 FTE jobs in energy efficiency.

What the IPCC report has definitively shown is that there needs to be a huge change on a global scale if we are to avert catastrophic climate change.

The energy, transport and building sectors will play a significant role in driving down emissions and will therefore experience dramatic change.

Jobs will be lost but far more will be created. We will be part of a seismic shift that will shake the world – and make it a better place in which to live.

Although driven by the looming threat of the effects of climate change, it is an incredibly exciting time for renewables and clean energy sectors. 

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