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Energy Efficiency A Highly Ambitious Global Climate Action

By Saurabh Kumar, Executive Vice Chairperson, EESL Group

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the need for urgent and swift adoption of clean energy, across the globe. The report says that the world will reach 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming in just the next two decades. It also states that limiting this warming and mitigating the effects of climate change will hinge on our actions taken in this decade. Highly ambitious climate action, globally, is the only avenue to keep the rising temperature in check. In this backdrop, the 26th Conference of Parties meeting (COP26), scheduled for November 2021 in Glasgow becomes highly critical. It will bring under one roof climate experts, policymakers, and leaders from most countries of the world, who will be responsible for shaping the world’s climate action. The commitments, pledges and targets set here will set the course for our planet’s continued well-being.

According to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, improvements in energy efficiency can contribute around half of the reduction in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions needed over the next two decades to meet international energy and climate goals. This becomes even more significant in light of the findings from the IPCC report. In fact, a 2021 BEE report on the Impact of Energy Efficiency Measures in India says that the adoption of energy efficiency programmes has led to the overall energy savings of 28.06 Mtoe for the year 2019-20. These energy savings translated into a reduction in CO2 emissions to the tune of 177.6 million Tonnes annually. Energy efficiency has, over the last decade shown its immense potential in enhancing energy security and mitigating climate change. It has averted 12% more greenhouse gas emissions and 20% more fossil fuel imports, in just last few years. It is now imperative for energy efficiency to come into spotlight as a major component of the climate action machinery. For this, an international multilateral organization for energy efficiency has to be established to facilitate cooperation, knowledge and technology exchange among the nations. It will also enable an increased awareness of global best practices and successful business models, which can be emulated by other nations.

We have witnessed a marked shift towards low-carbon sources of electricity including wind, solar PV, hydropower and nuclear. Renewable energy witnessed a clear surge in the last few years, with more and more nations waking up to the advantages it offers. This shift is timely and highly critical. However, much more has to be done. In 2020, low-carbon sources leapfrogged conventional sources to reach 40% of global electricity generation – A full 6 percentage points ahead of coal. However, according to IEA, to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, 90% of global electricity generation has to come from renewable sources, with solar PV and wind together accounting for nearly 70%. This means that there is ample room to make a concerted push to increase the share of renewable power in the global energy mix. Apart from being a key tool in restoring and preserving global ecosystems, and reversing climate change deterioration, renewable also make considerable economic sense. According to an IRENA report, doubling the share of renewables in the energy mix by 2030 would increase global GDP by up to 1.1 percent, improve welfare by up to 3.7 percent and support over 24 million jobs in the sector.

Another pathway to reduction of emission intensity is climate pricing and the creation of carbon markets. The creation of carbon tax that sets a price on carbon emissions for organizations and nations, has played a pivotal role in bringing down emission intensity.  One of the most viable ways to achieve this has been the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). It is key component of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), CDM comes under the Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol and seeks to reduce the concentration of GHG emissions in the atmosphere in a cost-effective way.  It enables developed countries to use carbon credits generated from clean energy projects in developing countries to meet a part of their emission reduction targets, under the Kyoto Protocol. The swift and judicious adoption of climate pricing and markets has the potential to sharply reduce global emissions.

India has emerged as one of the very few nations, who have established an intricate symbiosis between economic growth and sustainability, and I believe that we shall continue to be a flagbearer of the global climate action. Globally, we have seen sustained effort by various governments to revamp their energy mix, with India leading the pack through its slew of successful endeavors. Now, India has reinforced its position as one of the leading voices in the global climate change discourse. We have been regularly ahead of the curve in meeting our climate commitments and the recent achievement of reaching a milestone 100 GW of installed renewable capacity is a testament to India’s sharp focus on clean energy.

Effective and impactful climate action will depend on the trifecta of renewable energy, climate pricing and energy efficiency. These three forces will style a sustainable and energy secure future for all of us.

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