Clean Energy Day is an important reminder to build on the UAE Consensus

While the use of renewables has grown, we must raise our climate ambition further to bridge the energy gap and keep 1.5°C within reach

E-scooters and bicycles for hire at the Green Zone ahead of the Cop28 in Dubai last November. Renewable energy has grown in importance in recent years. Bloomberg
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Tomorrow, we celebrate the inaugural International Day of Clean Energy.

The establishment and recognition of this day by the UN, largely due to the advocacy of the UAE and Panama as co-facilitators of the resolution, is a testament to the growing momentum behind, and support for renewable energy worldwide.

There is unequivocal consensus among the global community that a just and urgent transition towards clean energy is no longer optional if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change and spur sustainable development. It is essential.

Proclaiming the International Day of Clean Energy on the same day that the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) was established is a 15-year echo of the same co-operative spirit that inspired the international community to organise, formalise and expand its commitment to supporting renewable energy development through an intergovernmental organisation a decade and a half ago.

Since the inception of Irena, the energy landscape has undergone a transformative shift.

Today, renewables are the dominant form of new power generation, surpassing fossil fuels in terms of annual growth and cost-effectiveness, helping connect millions of people to clean, affordable power. Renewables have also transcended their traditional role as sources of power generation, playing a growing role in decarbonising industry, shipping and transport, thanks to innovations in green hydrogen and the skyrocketing adoption of electric vehicles.

Targets alone will not ensure that we course correct to a 1.5°C future

This first International Day of Clean Energy arrives on the back of Cop28, which concluded a little more than six weeks ago in Dubai with a historic agreement from the 198 parties to include language on the need to transition away from fossil fuels in the negotiated text: the UAE Consensus.

Linked to this landmark agreement, another of the key outcomes from Cop28 was the goal of tripling the world’s renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030 – targets that align with Irena’s World Energy Transitions Outlook.

This level of commitment and ambition is not only evident at the national and regional levels but also in countless grassroots movements at the community level, supported by youth and entrepreneurs around the world as they continue to build innovative and human impact-driven businesses to transform lives and livelihoods for themselves and those around them.

The private sector is also showing unprecedented support for the energy transition. Thanks to a booming renewable energy industry underpinned by rapidly falling costs of power generation, private-sector players have committed record-breaking levels of investment to bridging the energy gap, bolstering climate action and enhance energy security.

Progress is being made. That much is undeniable. But targets alone will not ensure that we course correct to a 1.5°C future. Accountability, transparency, robust governance and policies must be the mechanisms that deliver the climate-positive future we simply must achieve. And renewables must be the delivery vehicle of this future.

To ensure that the growth in renewables meets the necessary levels by 2030, Irena’s World Energy Transitions Outlook identifies three priority actions for the coming years to urgently overcome existing systemic barriers.

First, we modernise and expand the existing physical infrastructure. Our grids must evolve to transport electricity efficiently from resource-rich locations to areas of high demand, a critical need as we witness a rise in energy demand and a surge in the electrification of economies. According to Irena’s latest research, one third of the total power sector investment to 2030 must go into power grids and flexibility.

Second, we need to establish a new policy and regulatory architecture to facilitate investments and improve socio-economic and environmental outcomes. The energy transition is a system-wide effort, extending beyond just adding power, with new rules and regulations needing to be cross-cutting to encompass end-use sectors such as industry, buildings and transport.

Lastly, there is an urgent need to develop a workforce that is well-equipped to build and maintain a renewables-based energy system.

This includes integrating renewable energy into educational curriculums, expanding training opportunities, and increasing their availability to women, youth and disenfranchised communities. It also involves retraining and recertifying fossil fuel industry professionals to adapt and bring their knowledge and experience to careers in renewable and clean energy.

Without addressing these three key areas, tripling global renewable capacity will become a steeper uphill climb, making it harder to accelerate the energy transition at the speed and scale needed to limit temperature rises to the critical 1.5°C threshold.

We have everything we need to meet the climate challenge with solutions. On the International Day of Clean Energy, let us use the progress we have driven so far to fuel our aspirations and raise our climate ambitions further.

Published: January 25, 2024, 4:00 AM