Political leadership needed to confront existential threat of climate change, says Irena chief

Adnan Amin says it makes economic sense to shift to renewable energy

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 22, 2016 Electric energy generating wind turbines are seen on a wind farm in the San Gorgonio Pass area on Earth Day near Palm Springs, California.  Wind turbines, designed as an alternative to fossil fuels, still contribute to climate change due to the way they redistribute heat and moisture in the atmosphere, according to a study published October 4, 2018.Researchers from Harvard University found that powering the entire United States with wind energy would cause a 0.54 degree Celsius ground temperature rise in the area where the turbines were located, and a 0.24C increase across the continental United States.
 / AFP / David McNew
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An alarming UN report warning the world that it has only 12 years left to avert catastrophic climate change is a serious wake-up call.

Adnan Amin, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, called for political leadership and courage to confront this threat.

Mr Amin said governments across the world grasped the seriousness of what is happening, voices calling for change were getting louder and it was vital that more people switched to renewable energy not just because it was the right thing to do, but also because it made economic sense.

His comments came at Irena’s high-level council meeting in Abu Dhabi to discuss how to increase the use of renewables.

“Look at the intensification of extreme weather events such as rising tides and storms,” Mr Amin said. “The damage we are facing from climate change is far in excess of the investment needed to move to clean energy.”


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Generating power from wind now as cheap as fossil fuels: Irena report 

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The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world faces global temperature increases of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in little more than a decade.

This may mean floods, extreme heat and drought could become commonplace, endangering hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

Only drastic action taken now will avert this doomsday scenario and keep temperature increases within 1.5°C, the IPCC report’s authors warned.

“Technological advances have unlocked opportunities and there is a falling cost of renewables. Trends are very hopeful,” Mr Amin said.

“Are we able in the time needed to keep it below 1.5°C? It is a tough call because it is a steep target, but we do believe it is feasible to keep it below 2°C by 2050.”

More than 350 government representatives from 110 countries are expected to attend the three-day event that started in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

Plummeting renewable energy costs, advances in technology and demand for climate action are in the spotlight as Irena believes renewables to be the most cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions, create jobs and improve health.

But the sobering UN report loomed large. Mr Amin said the challenge seemed daunting but a wave of change was coursing through the energy sector.

For example, the cost of generating power from onshore wind is now as cheap as fossil fuel. Onshore wind is being commissioned for $0.04 (Dh0.14) a kilowatt hour (kWh), compared with $0.5 to $0.17 for fossil fuels.

Today, 25 per cent of the world’s electricity needs are met by renewable energy sources and this is growing rapidly, driven by massive changes in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“I’ve been working in climate policy for 20 years,” Mr Amin said.

“Political discussion has often been at a stalemate but today we are seeing a feasible pathway.

“There is a positive economic case for the transition. It’s a win-win scenario.”

Mr Amin also called for ordinary people to get involved and check if they can use solar power or other renewable sources in their homes.

“Before it was expensive, today it’s different. It’s not only up to governments,” he said.