Governments can achieve multiple economic and social objectives in the pursuit of a resilient future.
Short-term efforts for economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic should be aligned to longer term objectives on climate change and sustainable development, according to energy experts.
In a new report, intergovernmental agency the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlights the role that the energy transition could play in making world economies more resilient following the crisis caused by the pandemic.
Deep decarbonisation of global energy system could require energy investment of up to $US130 trillion, but could boost cumulative global GDP gains above business-as-usual by US$98 trillion between now and 2050, IRENA said.
This would nearly quadruple renewable energy jobs to 42 million, and expand employment in energy efficiency to 21 million, it added.
Investment in a low carbon system would significantly pay off, the report shows, with savings eight times more than costs when accounting for reduced health and environment damage.
IRENA’s director general Francesco La Camera said that the coronavirus crisis had exposed deeply embedded vulnerabilities of the current system. “By accelerating renewables and making the energy transition an integral part of the wider recovery, governments can achieve multiple economic and social objectives in the pursuit of a resilient future,” he said.
The report considers different scenarios for recovery in ten regions worldwide. The proportion of energy coming from technologies such as wind and solar could reach 70-80 per cent by 2050 in Southeast Asia, Latin America, the European Union and Sub-Saharan Africa.
All regions would also significantly increase their welfare and witness net job gains in the energy sector, despite losses in fossil fuels.
Andrew Steer, president of US-based think tank the World Resources Institute said that the world now faced a choice in its recovery plan between a clean and health energy system, or returning to the old, polluting ways of doing business.
“We must choose the former - the clean energy transition can improve people’s health and welfare everywhere,” he said.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.