UN Climate Statement / 08 May, 2017
UNFCCC Welcomes Global 100% Renewable Energy Platform

On Monday, representatives of major organizations launched the Global 100% Renewable Energy Platform. The launch coincided with the start of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (SB46, 8 to 18 May).

The Platform’s work will be guided by its principles that all new investments into energy systems have to be 100% renewable energy based, and that decentralized and people-centered approaches are the best and fastest way to transform societies.

The following remarks were made by Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on behalf of UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa:

Those that know the UNFCCC process will know that the May sessions are the pre-planning for the annual UN climate conference or COP which this is also taking here in Bonn.

This is quite unusual for us—normally this takes place in another country.

But the Government of Germany offered to support the Government of Fiji, who will preside over this year’s conference, by inviting nations to come here to be hosted by the UNFCCC.

This is both an exciting honour and quite a challenge, not least because with over 20,000 delegates this former capital of Western Germany will be holding its biggest conference ever.

I have the pleasure to be on an overall steering committee for COP23 and can tell you I now know more about bus timetables in Bonn and the respective hotel accommodation in Cologne, Koblenz and Kongiswinter than I ever imagined.

So, while we are here to celebrate renewable energy and a new campaign, I would also perhaps concentrate a little on Bonn hotel bookings if you plan to come in November to COP23.

I was asked by the organizers of this event to speak on the importance of renewable energy with regards to the Paris Climate Change Agreement—and I am delighted to do that.

I am sure that the rapid growth of renewables in terms of scale, increasing geographical spread and tumbling prices played a key role in providing confidence to governments to ink the Agreement.

An agreement that came into force in record breaking time and today has well over 140 ratifications with new ones monthly.

That confidence building continues post Paris—almost every report I read about renewables shows inordinate progress and it is happening in cities and regions, among major companies and in communities.

Take the study, brought out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance just a week or so ago—it shows renewables generation—excluding large hydro—in Germany at just under 30 per cent up from 9 per cent in 2006.

There are similar stories for the UK, Spain and Italy—Australia 3per cent in 2006, now 12 per cent.

If you look at states in the United States you see similar growth patterns in Oklahoma; South Dakota and Minnesota to name but a few.

And I don’t need to tell you about China or indeed increasingly now India among a growing list of developing countries growing renewable energy generation.

But you know, there is lots more to do: there are some countries in the world where the renewable energy revolution has passed them by.

Yesterday I was glancing at WorldAtlas, the online publisher, and its listed 25 countries with zero or only tiny per cents of alternative energies—countries like Togo and Turkmenistan for example.

I was amazed at how several European countries also have relatively low levels of renewables, so even on this Continent with such a positive story on clean energy, there is much work to do.

There may be many reasons why developing countries or ones in transition are facing challenges here—investment risks and currency risks to name but two. But this is where together, and with regional development banks and others, we can change the rules of the game in favour of renewables and better lives for the poor and vulnerable.

Meanwhile there perhaps is a lot to do to bring on some other forms of renewables that are still, price and penetration-wise, way behind the curve.

I am thinking of wave power and ocean thermal energy conversion—I am old enough to remember how much a unit of solar power electricity cost in the 1990s, but look at it today.

So why not these other forms of vast, untapped sources of clean energy when today so many people live on or near the coast and small island like Fiji are crying out for modern forms of energy that offer a better development path than diesel.

The Paris Agreement is unique in that it clearly lays out the path to a low carbon, resilient future and has a clear destination—climate neutrality in the second half of the century—if the world is to keep a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C, let alone meet the 1.5-degree C target.

Climate neutrality is about restoring the balance of emissions out and emissions in. It is not going to be easy to achieve, but achieve it we must if we are to hand over a healthy world to the next generation.

This will not be possible without investment and efforts to restore and better manage the Earth’s natural or nature-based systems like forests, coastal ecosystems and soils that for millennia have handled carbon on our behalf.

But our natural systems need help—we need to rapidly and decisively reduce our global emissions.

We need transformational policies and enabling legislation—good news here too because tomorrow we will launch a report with the Grantham Institute and others on the growth of climate-related laws since the 1990s which continues post Paris.

We also need to retool the global financial architecture to price in risk, reduce short-termism and support a low carbon transition.

Renewable energy, allied to energy efficiency, has a big role to play.

You have set a target under your campaign of 100 per cent renewables—that is quite an aim, but who would ever imagine that this is impossible if recent history is our guide.

Because when you go back and look at the estimates made for renewables in say the 1990s and even in the early 2000s, many underestimated this reality of where we are today often by very wide margins.

And if you had said in the 1990s that wind and now solar in many places would be cheaper than coal, you would have had many investors laughing into their champagne glasses accusing you of wishful, eco-thinking.

But the world is changing, indeed before our very eyes and the transition to a cleaner, greener economy is well underway and trillions of dollars of investment is now shifting to support it and new instruments, like Green or Climate Bonds, are set to double again this year.

Again best of luck with your new initiative and I look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it in Bonn again in November.