In a new opinion piece by Sam Butler-Sloss and published by Carbon Tracker, the case is made for reframing the narrative around climate change action. To proposal is to move from pain to gain at COP26.
First, the author asks, “How can we bring forward this great wave of innovation and wealth generation to avoid climate chaos?”
Since the Paris climate conference in 2015, the cost of renewables has fallen to below that of coal. According to many, this was not expected to happen till 2040 just a decade ago. What’s more: integration technologies are allowing more and more renewable energy to access the grid. Indeed, California and South Australia are already planning for a grid running on 100% renewables and batteries.
The financial markets have increased expectations from renewable stocks and reduced them for fossil fuel companies. Modelling by Oxford academic Doyne Farmer shows that “a rapid energy transition would likely mean a net capital saving of over $5 trillion relative to business as usual.”
But it’s not just economics — gains are also accruing in energy security and access, health, and the environment. There is no longer a trade-off between development and climate mitigation. Those countries so long dependent on oil imports have the resource potential to be energy independent. Energy is going from being a scarce commodity monopolized by the few to an abundant commodity available to all.
“And as cheaper energy is generated, so this will drive growth and provide space and money to support those workers damaged by the energy transition.
“Voters are told that change will be expensive and painful, and high-cost or sub-scale technologies like CCS, direct air capture and tree planting are touted as real solutions which will enable us to carry on with business as usual.”
All to make more profits for as long as possible.
The fossil fuel industries care as much about the health of the people (and the planet) as do the tobacco companies before them. So, what needs to be done?
- Decarbonize the electricity system and electrify everything (this is not linear — both can be done at the same time).
- Stop deforestation.
- Change the easiest sectors first — solutions exist for 87% of sectors.
- Wealthy countries need to change first and share the technology. Don’t dump old technology on the poorer parts of the world (again, like cigarettes).
Vote for legislators who will make a difference. Encourage them to set targets, retool policy, build infrastructure, sell the story of gain to the people, and figure out answers for the hard-to-solve sectors (remember this is only 13% at this point).
What do we hope for from COP26? A change in the narrative from pain to gain. Remember, we are writing our grandchildren’s future.