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Surge in solar and wind power marks shift to low-

carbon energy
BY: Leslie Hook

When BP’s economists published their annual review of world energy this week, the survey
revealed a surprising statistic: 17 per cent of the world’s energy growth last year came from
renewable sources, the largest increase on record. New installations of renewable energy were
equivalent to the energy output of 69m tonnes of oil — about as much energy as Sweden and
Denmark consume in a year.

This development might have been unthinkable a decade ago, when wind and solar power were
much more expensive than they are today. However, a surge of investment in renewable energy
sources over the past decade combined with falling costs for new energy technologies has brought
about a profound transformation in global energy production.

Part of the reason for this massive shift was the Paris climate agreement, signed in 2015, when
more than 170 countries agreed to reduce their emissions to limit global warming to below 2C.

“If you look at the world, you see that there is actually more collaboration about climate change
than there is about many other issues that are confronting us,” says Christiana Figueres, the UN’s
leading climate change diplomat from 2010 to 2016.

There are still challenges — including the fact that the US, originally a signatory to the agreement,
has said it plans to withdraw from the deal. By 2020, the signatories of the Paris climate agreement
will have to agree on legally binding limits for their carbon emissions, as well as come up with
financing for developing countries to pay for the cost of making the transition, which has been a
sticking point in the past.

“Addressing climate change is not easy or we would have done it,”
says Ms Figueres. But she adds: “It is not insurmountable. It is absolutely complex — it is
realistically complex.”

The exact scale of the problem will be made clear this year, when a panel of scientists will release a
report on the impact of 1.5C of global warming — and what level of emissions cuts would be
necessary to limit global warming to that level. Early drafts of that report from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate, have
suggested, based on current trends, that the 1.5C threshold will be breached before 2050.

With that report in hand, delegates to the annual UN climate talks in December will have to
consider what measures can be taken to reduce emissions much more radically than in the past

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