In only 15 years, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro) could surpass fossil fuels as the main provider of energy. According to a new International Energy Agency (IEA) report, renewables could provide more than 50% of the energy market by 2050. But even so, they warn, without bolder emission cuts, we’ll be blowing past our current climate targets.

Image via QZ.

Last year, the global economy grew by 3% but emissions stayed flat. This was “the first time in at least 40 years that such an outcome has occurred outside economic crisis,” the IEA said. This is a clear indication that global economy is starting to decouple from CO2 emissions – that is, we will no longer need to burn more fuel to develop our economy, as was the rule for the past decades.

This comes, at least in part, as a result of a surge of cheaper renewable energy. Hydropower schemes, wind turbines, solar farms and other renewable sources, all played their part, accounting for 128 gigawatts of new power capacity, attracting some $270 billion in investments. Interestingly enough, China led the way in terms of investing in renewables, with $80 billion – as much as the US and the European Union combined.

So we might be heading towards a future where renewables rule the market – and that future may be led by China. But even if this happens, we’re still off track for meeting the 2 degree goal: the plan of keeping global temperatures less than 2 degrees higher than before the industrial revolution. The IEA actually offers a plan to meet the 2 degree target, a plan that has five main parts:

1. Increasing energy efficiency
2. Reduce coal and ban new coal plants
3. Ratchet up investment in renewables from $270 billion to $400 billion by 2030
4. Phase out fossil fuel subsidies
5. Reducing methane emissions in oil and gas production

There are reasons to be optimistic, and reasons to be pessimistic – we’ll see what the future brings, but it seems like interesting times are coming.


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