Canadians are feeling the sun this summer as regions across the nation are starting to reach their most scorching temperatures of the year. In Toronto, hundreds of invitation-only delegates are feeling the heat as they participate in a two-day climate summit. This is conveniently occurring just as Clean Energy Canada has released their report titled “Tackling the Global Energy Revolution 2015.” Simultaneously, world leaders are able to internalize the results of this report, while forging a plan that ensures economic and environmental sustainability.
The report indicates that worldwide, investors moved $295 billion USD into renewable energy projects- an increase of 17 percent over 2013- growing the broader clean-energy market to $788 billion USD. Coupled with the same report’s finding that investors moved $50 billion USD in capital out of fossil fuel stocks, this hike in investment within the alternative energy industry can further suggest the emergence of renewables as the future of energy generation. This notion seems even further cemented when comparing the new money invested into the energy sector. In total, Clean Energy Canada’s report illustrates that investors poured twice as much money into new renewables-energy projects than into new fossil fuel projects, perhaps signalling a paradigm shift amongst the investment class of society.
What is as well encouraging about this apparent phasing away from fossil fuels, is the recent assessment from the International Energy Agency that indicated that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, even as the economy experienced a 3% growth. This growth is essential, as it was the first time in four decades that greenhouse-gas emissions failed to increase without help from an economic recession. Optimism has been widespread as a result of this data, spreading the movement throughout the political arena.
There are so many forces guiding this movement that a perfect storm has emerged. Because the concern against climate change has now spread widely across almost all waves of society, we are now witnessing a substantial pressure on politicians to reduce their countries’ carbon emissions. While this is occurring, renewable energy technologies’ prices are dropping at increasingly high rates, making residential, commercial, and industrial applications much more affordable. This has enabled many countries to further their efforts against climate change without substantially harming their economies. Most notably, the world’s two largest climate polluters agreed to cooperate and work towards separate targets with the signing of the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change.
While China set the agenda to peak greenhouse gas emissions around 2030 while working to increase the percentage of non-fossil fuels in its total energy mix to 20% by the same date, the United States has offered to set a stronger target to reduce emissions across all industries, hoping to reduce carbon emissions below 2005 levels. Quite potentially related to the political push towards renewable energy is the dramatic reduction in cost of renewable energy technologies. Worldwide, prices vary, but it is highlighted in the report that “the average cost of solar and both onshore and offshore wind will compete directly with fossil fuels in most markets by 2025.”
Naturally, there will be people who lead this movement, and those who lag behind. Just as some people tend to be conservative to progressive and lesser proven technologies, many nations as well will lag behind the forward-looking countries. It is already less expensive to have rooftop solar electricity than residential grid-based electricity in 30 countries across the globe (Clean Energy Canada, 7), and it is my hope that Canada furthers their push to further integrate renewables into our grid and come to the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris committed to a clear, and concise plan to reduce emissions while continuing to grow our economy.