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Countries Can “Significantly” Increase Renewable Energy Ambition Within NDCs, Concludes IRENA

A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency has concluded that there is significant untapped potential for countries to “significantly” increase their renewable energy ambition within Nationally Determined Contributions when they are revised in 2020, helping to accelerate deployment in line with the goals and needs of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency has concluded that there is significant untapped potential for countries to “significantly” increase their renewable energy ambition within Nationally Determined Contributions when they are revised in 2020, helping to accelerate deployment in line with the goals and needs of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Released on Friday on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, the new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Untapped Potential for Climate Action: Renewable Energy in Nationally Determined Contributions, outlined the “opportunity to significantly increase renewable energy ambition” within the boundaries of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — individual national commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement. Current NDCs can be “substantially enhanced to meet global climate objectives” and at times under-represent renewable energy targets that exist under national energy strategies.

As it stands, of the 194 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that have submitted NDCs, 145 consider renewable energy as a way to mitigate climate change, and 109 cited specific renewable energy targets. “Countries have the opportunity, however, to significantly strengthen their targets for renewables in the next round of NDCs,” explained IRENA.

Currently, more than $1.7 trillion is needed by 2030 to implement existing NDCs-committed renewable energy targets globally, which would result in at least 1.3 TW (terawatts) of renewable power capacity added by 2030, an increase of 76%.

Total investment needed by 2030 for the implementation of renewable energy targets in current NDCs (USD billion)

However, IRENA believes these expectations are currently lagging behind actual trends — and fall short of ambition expressed in national energy plans. The cost-effective potential for renewables is also much higher than what is currently portrayed in existing NDCs. IRENA believes that rapid deployment of renewable energy, coupled with increases in energy efficiency, could achieve around 90% of the planet’s necessary emission reductions in the energy sector by 2050, while simultaneously advancing economic growth and development.

Further, renewable energy deployment levels under currently announced NDCs will bring 80 GW (gigawatts) worth of renewable energy online each year between 2015 and 2030. However, this under-represents the current state of renewable energy deployment, which according to IRENA sits at 125 GW of new renewable energy capacity each year between 2010 and 2016. As such, updates to NDCs can not only expand to increase targets and ambition, but can also be revised to better reflect the global energy transition already in play.

“The case for renewable energy has strengthened considerably since parties first quantified the renewable energy components of their nationally determined contributions,” said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General at a press conference for the Global Climate Action energy, water and agriculture thematic segments. “Since then, the increasing attractiveness of renewables as the lowest-cost source of new energy supply in countries around the world has fuelled unprecedented levels of deployment.

Image courtesy IRENA

“As the global community prepares for a new round of climate negotiations under the Paris Agreement, it is critical we go in with a clear understanding of the trajectory required to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” continued Mr. Amin. “Our analysis finds that the convergence of innovation, falling costs and positive socioeconomic impacts of renewable energy — together with the climate imperative — make a compelling case for accelerating action.”

Further key findings from the report include:

  • Substantial scope exists for countries to increase their renewable energy ambitions in a cost-effective way under NDCs.
  • In Africa, NDCs could cost-effectively target 310 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2030, almost four and a half times the capacity outlined currently in NDCs on the continent and more than twice the capacity envisaged in NDCs and national plans.
  • Only ten G20 countries currently include quantified renewable energy targets in their NDCs, while all of them have set targets as part of their national energy plans and strategies.
  • NDCs of G20 countries — responsible for 80% of the global energy-related CO2 emission reductions needed by 2050 — could aim for an installed renewable energy capacity of 4.6 terrawatts (TW) by 2030, 60% more than would be achieved though the combined implementation of national energy targets and current NDCs.
  • Greater alignment of renewable energy targets under NDCs and in national energy plans would facilitate the mobilization of the investments required to accelerate the energy transition and advance progress towards achieving global climate objectives.
  • Achieving power sector renewable energy targets under current NDCs, requires almost USD 1.7 trillion by 2030 – USD 1.2 trillion of which is required for unconditional targets, and USD 500 billion will be needed to support targets conditional upon international support.
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