The world must think more holistically about how it addresses renewable energy as efforts to shift away from fossil fuels and replace oil and coal with renewable energy sources can help reduce carbon emissions but at the expense of increased inequality, warn researchers.
The team from Portland State University (PSU) and Vanderbilt University found in a study of 175 nations from 1990 to 2014 that renewable energy consumption reduces carbon emissions more effectively when it occurs in a context of increasing inequality.
Conversely, it reduces emissions to a lesser degree when occurring in a context of decreasing inequality. “People who are just making ends meet and can barely afford their energy bills will make a choice between food and their energy,” said Julius McGee, assistant professor of sociology in PSU.
“We don’t think of energy as a human right when it actually is. The things that consume the most energy in your household — heating, cooling, refrigeration — are the things you absolutely need,” McGee added.
The findings, published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science, support previous claims by researchers who argue that renewable energy consumption may be indirectly driving energy poverty.
“Energy poverty” is when a household has no or inadequate access to energy services such as heating, cooling, lighting, and use of appliances due to a combination of factors: low income, increasing utility rates, and inefficient buildings and appliances.
In poorer nations, renewable sources of electricity have been used to alleviate “energy poverty”. In rural areas in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, a solar farm can give an agrarian community access to electricity that historically never had access to energy.
“That’s not having any impact on carbon dioxide emissions because those rural communities never used fossil fuels in the first place,” McGee said. Policymakers consider implementing policy tools that are aimed at both reducing inequality and reducing emissions.
“We need to be focusing on addressing concerns around housing and energy poverty before we actually think about addressing climate change within the confines of a consumer sovereignty model,” stressed McGee. (IANS)
Carbon emissions from the world’s 20 biggest economies, including India, are rising, and the countries have to increase their emission targets that will put them on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a report by Climate Transparency said on Monday.
To keep the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees goal within reach, G20 countries will have to increase their 2030 emission targets by 2020 and significantly scale up mitigation, adaptation and finance over the next decade.
The report also said that none of the G20 countries have plans that will help them achieve the target.
These findings are detailed in the new Brown to Green Report 2019 published by the Climate Transparency partnership, an international research collaboration.
The report is the most comprehensive review of G20 countries’ climate performance, mapping achievements and drawbacks in their efforts to reduce emissions, adapt to climate impacts and green the financial system.
Many of the current 2030 climate targets under the Paris Agreement (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) are too weak, with about half of the G20 countries projected to meet or overachieve their inadequate NDCs.
There is plenty of room for enhanced ambition among all G20 countries.
“Among the G20 countries, India has the most ambitious NDC. However, it still needs real action now to prepare the different sectors for stringent emission reductions,” The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Programme Director (Earth Science and Climate Change) R.R. Rashmi said.
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in G20 countries shot up by 1.8 per cent in 2018 due to rising energy demand, the report said.
Energy supply is not getting cleaner: despite a more than five per cent rise in G20 total renewable energy supply in 2018, the share of fossil fuels in the G20 energy mix remains at 82 per cent.
In 2018, G20 emissions in the power sector increased by 1.6 per cent. While renewables now account for 25.5 per cent of power generation, this is not sufficient to outweigh the growth of emissions from fossil fuel sources.
Coal needs to be phased out by 2030 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and by 2040 globally, said the report.
G20 transport emissions increased by 1.2 per cent in 2018. Low-carbon fuels accounted for less than six per cent of the fuel mix. They need to increase roughly 10 times by 2050 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
G20 countries need to scale up their policies to ban new fossil fuel cars by 2035 at the latest, reduce emissions from freight transport to net-zero by 2050 and shift towards non-motorised and sustainable public transport.
Cutting government subsidies to the aviation sector, taxing jet fuel and using revenues to invest massively in new carbon free fuels would leverage huge emissions reductions and health benefits.
Also G20 emissions in the building sector grew more than in any other sector in 2018 (4.1 per cent). Retrofitting existing buildings challenges all G20 and especially OECD countries. New buildings have to be near zero-energy by 2020-25 to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.
According to the report, G20 countries still provided more than $127 billion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. Subsidies have shown a decrease in nine G20 countries (partly due to falling fuel prices), but subsidies for natural gas infrastructure and production have remained stable or increased in many countries (despite lower prices).
“Just one year before the critical deadline the findings give us hope that countries will find the political will to commit to higher emission reduction targets in 2020 as they promised under the Paris Agreement,” said Alvaro Umana, the Co-Chair of Climate Transparency and former Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica.
In the power, India is currently investing most in renewable energy, while Brazil and Germany are the only G20 countries with long-term renewable energy strategies.
Brazil leads with 82.5 per cent renewables, while Saudi Arabia, South Korea and South Africa lag behind with shares of only 0-5 per cent.
A coal phase-out plan is needed in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and the US.
In transport, Canada, France, Japan and Britain are leading in banning the sale of fossil fuel-based cars.
The emission intensity of the industry sector is the highest in Russia, India and China. At the same time, India and China are among the G20 countries with the most progressive energy efficiency policies. (IANS)