Renewables rocket as fossils fizzle: COP21


As the Paris climate summit gets rolling, signs of the world’s unstoppable shift from fossil fuels to renewables are coming thicker and faster than ever. Following India’s newly launched solar alliance, yesterday, African nations committed to reaching 300 GW of renewable energy by 2030, which will double their current energy capacity and make it 100 per cent clean. As the political momentum for full decarbonisation increases, uniting rich and poor nations, new figures show coal and fossil fuels are on their way out even faster than predicted, with coal consumption set to shrink by up to 4 per cent this year. As demand declines and risk grows, investors are retreating, with banks Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo and ING among the latest institutions to announce cuts to coal financing, bringing the total sum divested from fossil fuels to over $3.4 trillion – 50 times higher than just a year ago. New research highlights the urgent need to boost this trend, showing that coal plants already running will push emissions 150 per cent above what the internationally agreed 2DegC global warming limit requires unless taken off-line, and those planned would, if built, put emissions as high as 400 per cent over. Pressure is thus zooming in on countries like Turkey, Japan and Australia who still cling to coal despite its danger to health, communities and the climate, and on those banks that have so far failed to see the writing on the wall and continue financing dirty energy projects. Unless these few remaining fossil fuel junkies wean themselves off coal, oil and gas rapidly, they risk ending up left behind in a dirty energy past as the rest of the world embraces the just transition to the renewable energy era which – as today’s host of announcements and reports confirm once again – is already under way and picking up speed.



Key Points



Divestment and finance

Coal and renewables

COP21 news


Divestment and finance

Coal and renewables


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Key Quotes

Energy transformation

  • “Evidence continues to mount that the world is beyond peak coal consumption and that its appetite for thermal coal is waning. This trend has gathered remarkable momentum in 2015, as seen in sharp consumption declines in key coal markets. Much of this phenomenon is being driven by technological innovation and rapidly falling costs across the renewable and energy-efficiency sectors. Much also is being driven by emerging policies and investment strategies rooted in the recognition that a transformation is under way and now is the time to seize the day.” – Tom Sanzillo, IEEFA’s director of finance.
  • “There is a solution to this issue of too many coal plants on the books:  cancel them. Renewable energy and stricter pollution standards are making coal plants obsolete around the world, and the earlier a coal plant is taken out of the planning process, the less it will cost.” – Pieter Van Breevoort of Ecofys.
  • “More than 100 countries are calling for the Paris agreement to reference warming limits of 1.5 degrees.  Yet even electricity production from existing coal plants far exceed the range of such scenarios.  At the same time, we know that emerging economies like India would see so many co-benefits from reducing air pollution and other health issues its people are suffering from.”  – Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics
  • “It is unlikely that all of these planned coal plants are going to be built, especially when low carbon alternatives are reaching price parity. If renewables take off as fast as is currently expected, many of these planned coal plants could be stranded investments or would have to operate under difficult financial circumstances.” – Markus Hagemann of NewClimate Institute
  • “Unions and Civil Society shocked by proposals from Norway and EU to delete commitments to human rights, just transition and decent work. I call on all affiliates to lobby their Governments to maintain the current text. It is workers and their communities who will implement the transition to a zero carbon zero poverty world”. – Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary
  • “Renewables are here in Paris in a big way –  vulnerable countries want the Paris Agreement to deliver a global 100% renewable energy goal, India launched a solar alliance to boost the technology in poor countries and Africa committed to 300GW of clean power by 2030. If you’d asked anyone in Beijing a couple of years ago whether coal consumption would fall within the next ten years, no-one would have believed it possible.  But it fell last year by 2.9% and is falling even more, with an accelerated take-up in renewables.  That shows just how fast change can happen.” – Li Shuo, Greenpeace China
  • “Businesses and investors are looking to negotiators in Paris to agree a new global climate deal so that they can unleash a wave of new investment in clean energy. It reinforces the view that increasingly, seeing climate change in terms what it will cost is nonsensical. As other analyses have shown, addressing climate risks effectively presents massive opportunities not just to maintain growth, but to have better growth. This report also shows how the deployment of climate solutions like renewable energy technologies is disrupting existing business models, particularly in energy. Businesses and governments that resist this transformation risk getting left behind.” –  Richard Black, director of the ECIU.

Africa’s renewable energy target

  • This is an exceptional moment in Africa’s history, I am proud to see Africa, despite its current low emissions, lead the world in realising these easily available and under-utilised natural resources. Increased access to renewable energy will drastically increase the wellbeing of energy-poor Africans. What we now need is for world leaders to support this effort and get behind Africa’s renewable energy revolution.” – Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Advisor

Divestment announcements

  • “Today Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo announced they are cutting support for the coal mining sector, adding momentum to recent commitments made by Bank of America, Citigroup, and several others. While the policies announced today do not go nearly far enough to realign the banking sector with the reality of climate change, they are a clear indication that major banks agree coal is an increasingly foolish and unacceptable investment.” – Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of RAN.

COP21  negotiations

  • “Despite all the positive energy and announcements on things like finance for least developed countries, there weren’t enough concrete offers and breakthroughs on key components. The rhetoric is set. The question now is whether the negotiators and ministers will deliver.” – Liz Gallagher, E3G
  • “While two degrees will protect most people, most countries, and most ecosystems, it will not protect them all. If we want to protect everyone, we need to set the target at 1.5 degrees. If we set the target at 2 degrees, roughly 100 million people will fall through that crack—most, but not all, in developing countries. Globally, there is sufficient technology and sufficient money, but there is insufficient political will. We have 13 days to develop the political will.” – Saleemul Huq, ICCCAD

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