Fri, May 13, 2011 - Page 9 News List

The renewable future

A renewable energy revolution could cost US$12 trillion over the next 20 years. Expensive, yes, but fossil-fuel subsidies now run to more than US$600 billion a year

By Achim Steiner, Helen Clark and Kandeh Yumkella

Technical challenges remain: Seamlessly managing an array of very different energy sources will require investment in better national and regional grids. Yet the opportunities — to keep the global temperature rise this century to under 2?C, and to generate decent employment in clean-tech industries for millions of people — far outweigh the challenges. Clean and renewable energy will be an indispensable component of the fight against poverty worldwide.

The IPCC estimates that the costs of triggering a renewable revolution could range from US$3 trillion to more than US$12 trillion between now and 2030. That sounds pricey — and it is. However, fossil-fuel subsidies are currently running at more than US$600 billion a year, with barely a murmur of protest.

The IPCC report has provided a solid, scientific foundation for a low-carbon, resource-efficient future. Governments now have a clearer perspective on how to empower the lives and livelihoods of the world’s 7 billion people (9 billion to 10 billion by 2050), while keeping humanity’s footprint, including climate change, within the planet’s boundaries of environmental sustainability.

Achim Steiner is executive director of the UN Environment Program. Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand, is administrator of the UN Development Program. Kandeh Yumkella is director-general of the UN Industrial Development Organization.


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