An assessment of the contribution of renewable energy to climate change mitigation
, just published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) and targeted at government and policy makers, demonstrates that current EU and UK government policy aligns well with its global findings and outcomes. Future policy is likely to respond positively to the IPCC’s evidence and can be expected to result in broader renewable energy measures and outcomes.
The report reconfirms consumption of fossil fuels accounts for the majority of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, finding there are multiple options for lowering GHG emissions from the energy system while still satisfying the global demand for energy services. On a global basis, it is estimated that renewables accounted for 12.9 per cent of total primary energy supply in 2008 and 19 per cent of renewable electricity. Clearly, this trend must continue if GHG reduction targets are to be achieved.
Historically, economic development has been strongly correlated with increasing energy use and growth of emissions but in 2009, despite global financial challenges, renewable capacity continued to grow rapidly. The challenge for policy makers now is to decouple the two by prioritising sustainable development and ensuring that secure renewable capacity continues to expand.
The IPPC evidence demonstrates that an increasing number and variety of government policies have escalated the growth of these technologies in recent years. Moving forward, the focus of policies should continue to broaden from a concentration primarily on renewable electricity to include heating, cooling and transportation, which will also provide additional socio-environmental benefits.
To build this capacity specific policies will continue to help level the playing field for the technologies, including regulations such as feed-in-tariffs, quotas, priority grid access, building mandates, biofuel blending requirements, and bioenergy sustainability criteria. Other policy areas will involve fiscal incentives such as tax incentives, cap and trade schemes and direct government payments.
Current EU and UK government policy goes along with the IPCC findings, evidenced by the Climate Change Act 2008 and a succession of resulting initiatives including the Carbon Reduction Commitment, the electricity feed-in–tariff and the renewable energy incentive.
If the government continues to respond positively to the IPPC evidence we should expect further co-ordinated policy across different sectors, including not only renewable energy but also the built environment and transport and incorporating a mix of government policy frameworks and instruments.
☛ Tim Chapman is founder of The Carbon Initiative