February 23, 2024

Dozens of countries at COP28 have backed a target of raising the global renewable energy (RE) capacity to at least 11,000 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, agreeing to expand relevant funding and adopt policy reforms.

The target figure is three times more than the current rate, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency.

“Today, countries representing more than 85 percent of the world’s economy are behind COP28’s goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030”, COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber said in a statement.

The European Union and the United States have committed to the goal, according to separate official statements.

A joint communique of heads of state and governments for the consensus noted “nearly 800 million people globally [are] without access to electricity, nearly 600 million of whom are in Africa”.

Besides tripling installed RE capacity the nations have also agreed to double the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements to over four percent from about two percent yearly till the end of the decade.

They have also committed “to put the principle of energy efficiency as the ‘first fuel’ at the core of policymaking, planning, and major investment decisions”, the communique said.

Toward the renewables expansion and energy efficiency improvement goals, the countries agreed to reflect the aspirational figures in their so-called Nationally Determined Contributions, or documents of commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

They agreed to boost cooperation “on resilient value chains and technology development including through voluntary transfer under mutually agreed terms and conditions”, as well as to “expand financial support for scaling renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in emerging markets and developing economies”.

The agreement was reached at a series of so-called high-level dialogs that started between the COP28 leadership and the IEA in the run-up to the forum. These talks aim for an energy transition that is aligned with the 2015 Paris COP21 goal of preventing the global average temperature from going two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and reining in the rise further to 1.5C (34.7F).

Fossil Fuel Phase-Down

COP28 chair Al Jaber acknowledged the renewables pledge must be accompanied by a phase-down in fossil fuels. “Scaling renewables must come alongside reducing CO2 [carbon dioxide] and non-CO2 emissions from existing sources”, he said in a summary note for the progress of the dialogs so far.

“New unabated coal plants are not consistent with a 1.5C-aligned pathway, and the international community must support early retirement of existing coal plants”, Al Jaber said in the note published on COP28’s website.

“Fossil fuel industry must decarbonize existing operations whilst increasing investment in renewable and low-carbon alternatives”.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced EUR 2.3 billion ($2.49 billion) in funding by the 27-member bloc for the renewables pledge. “The Commission invites other donor countries to follow this lead and fast-forward the implementation of the Global Pledge”, said a statement by the European Commission.

Notably the world’s most populous countries China and India did not participate in the dialog to grow renewables deployment, according to the list of participants in the joint communique. However China has already set a goal of raising installed wind and solar capacity to 1,200 GW by 2030, as declared in the government’s “Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking before 2030”. And India has already committed to helping triple world renewables capacity by 2030 under a Group of 20 (G20) pledge, according to a G20 statement September 11.

Pledge to Grow Nuclear Energy

Separately at COP28 the US and over 20 other nations launched a goal of also tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050 relative to 2020.

The Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy, which includes Japan and the United Kingdom, plans to “invite shareholders of the World Bank, international financial institutions, and regional development banks to encourage the inclusion of nuclear energy in their organizations’ energy lending policies”.

The declaration will advance small modular and advanced reactors for electricity generation, as well as industrial-scale technology for decarbonization “such as for hydrogen or synthetic fuels production”, according to the text of the declaration published by the US Energy Department.

The parties “commit to take domestic actions to ensure nuclear power plants are operated responsibly and in line with the highest standards of safety, sustainability, security, and non-proliferation, and that fuel waste is responsibly managed for the long term”.

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