Enabling change through energy transition

09 December 2018| Article


Policy makers and influencers, innovators and business drivers from a wide range of sectors and across the world came together for this year’s Global Climate Action Energy Day at the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice. To achieve sustainable development and a climate-safe future, transforming energy is of essence. The recent IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5 °C has underlined the urgency of taking decisive action to tackle climate change. Considering that two thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originate from the energy sector, the IPCC unequivocally calls for an urgent large-scale energy transformation. Participants at the Energy Day widely reckoned changes in the energy sector at an unparalleled speed, reshaping economies, societies and markets. While the momentum is accelerating, a decisive shift is at early stage. Advances in low-carbon technologies as well as long-term energy planning and strategies have been identified as vital to provide a direction of travel and orientation to scale up ambition in national climate plans submitted under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Elizabeth Press, Director for Planning and Programme Support at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) opened this year’s Energy Day, kick-starting the first session on advancements inside and outside of the energy sector that are influencing the energy transition.

Innovators and entrepreneurs are advancing technology and market solutions that will have a lasting impact on the future global energy system. “Most of the energy produced is wasted. We need to use the energy that will be saved from efficient technology, buildings, electrification, heating. We do not need more, we need better,” said Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of Solar Impulse, the first ever solar-powered aircraft project. “Can you imagine the additional profits resulting from energy savings if we modernise the existing old infrastructure,” Tanja Vainio, Country Managing Director Czech Republic and Slovakia from the ABB Group added, “This is the way we should go instead of just producing more emissions - not in 2050, today, together.”

One of the key elements of this year’s Energy Day was to provide an understanding of how governments can put long-term plans in place that would encourage businesses to reach Paris Agreement targets. “Energy markets are undergoing many changes” said Roman Kramarchuk, Head of Global Energy Policy & Technology at S&P Global Platts. “We need to pursue changes on several fronts to effectively address climate change.” Caroline Lee, Energy Policy Analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA) added, “Action today must be urgently aligned with meeting long-term goals to transform the energy system.”

Morderated by Majda Dabaghi, Director of Green Growth at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), one session focused on IPCC findings and recommendations in relation to the energy sector. Dr. Joeri Rogelj, Lecturer in Climate Change and the Environment at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC special report reminded that “a 1.5C zero carbon energy system requires action in all areas. Keeping energy use down has many synergies with broader sustainable development".

Achieving an energy system that meets global development and climate objectives, however, requires rapid innovation, in technologies and business models, that spans many sectors and many facets of the economy. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for example released “Going Further, Faster”, a 2018 progress report on the Low-Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi).  

Andreas Ahrens, Head of Climate and Energy at IKEA Group re-iterated that, “IKEA will supply 100% of its energy consumption by renewable energy by 2030. We are integrating climate plans in all our business activities.” Private sector engagement was also confirmed by Jérôme Schmitt, Chair of Executive Committee of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). He said, “Industry wants to contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement. Innovative solutions of tomorrow have to be clean. We want to make sure that economy is sustainable & net-zero after 2050.”

“You can go with green energy and it’s profitable,” called H.R.H. Princess Abze Djigma from BurkinaFaso and the CEO of AbzeSolar, “policy makers should make finance available & make use of technology available.” Referring to socio-economic benefits of investments in a clean transition, Sayda Rodríguez Gómez, Secretary of Urban Development and Environment, from Yucatan, Mexico said that, “Yucatan invests in the renewable energy sector as a base of the region's dynamic economic growth.”  Marshall Island Climate Envoy Tina Stege announced a new long-term Electricity Roadmap to reduce electricity emissions showing how other countries large and small might also make the decarbonisation journey.

A lively and colorful discussion concluded with Inia Seruiratu, Climate Champion and Minister for Defense and National Security of Fiji calling for, “Collaborative climate action to set the path towards a true transformational change.” The Energy Day ended with his strong encouragement for an accelerated transition: “It’s not impossible. But we have to step up action.”

Watch the Energy Day:

The Energy Day was organised by IRENA in cooperation with partners from the Climate Group, the International Energy Agency (IEA), Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as part of a series of thematic action days held under the auspices of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action.

The Marrakech Partnership aims at catalysing greater climate action, including at the sub-national and corporate level, in the period from 2017-2020.