Now is the time to speed up the transition to cleaner energy sources
WE are at a critical moment for the future of our planet. Temperatures are rising, storms are raging and crops are failing across the world. Considering the impact of climate change and COVID-19, building back a fairer, greener and more resilient recovery should be a big priority of all governments across the globe, including the United Kingdom and Nigeria.
In the 14 months in the run up to the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, set to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November 2021, we must increase climate ambition around the world to protect our planet. Accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources is a key part of the puzzle.
Currently, despite the rapidly falling cost of renewables so that they are cheaper than coal and gas around the world, over 50 countries are still planning new coal plants. To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global transition to clean power needs to be four to six times faster than at present, according to the International Energy Agency, IEA, and International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA. Carbon Tracker – an independent think tank – calculates that coal power retirement needs to increase threefold, with one coal unit closing everyday until 2040.
The UK is bringing countries, development banks, investors, industry and civil society together to ensure that every country can access the investment and assistance to scale up renewable energy more rapidly and to help phase out the use of coal across the world. We know developing countries often face barriers in expanding their renewable energy capacity, such as high capital costs, difficulty accessing finance, and lack of support with the technical aspects of the transition to clean power. That’s why, alongside other leaders in politics, finance and the technology of the global power sector, we’ve launched the COP26 Energy Transition Council.
The UK’s COP26 President, Alok Sharma, will chair the council alongside the co-chair, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy, Nigeria’s Damilola Ogunbiyi. The Council will harness multilateral convening power and sector expertise to find solutions more rapidly to drive forward a transition to clean energy in developing countries, including in Nigeria.
Additionally, the UK is putting £50 million of international climate finance investment into a new Clean Energy Innovation Facility, CEIF. This funding will accelerate innovative clean energy technologies such as energy storage in developing countries.
The UK is already collaborating with Nigeria in this space through a range of UKAid funded programmes. These include the Nigerian Investment Advisory Facility, Solar Nigeria, the Africa Clean Energy Programme, the Transforming Energy Access programme, and the North East Nigeria Transition to Development, NENTAD.
These programmes all contribute to helping Nigeria make a transition towards clean energy and a low-carbon but high growth economic development path. The programmes support Nigeria’s power sector reform, stimulate investment in the sector, and support Nigeria’s commitment to provide five million Solar Home Systems as set out in Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan developed in response to COVID-19.
The Climate Finance Accelerator, which specifically offers further support to financing renewable energy, will be launched shortly in Nigeria. We also continue to partner with the Federal Ministry of the Environment in Nigeria as they develop a new Nationally- Determined Contribution for Nigeria and so a new commitment to further reduce Nigeria’s carbon emissions. Speeding up the move to renewables isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for jobs and growth too. Both solar and wind power costs fell by 13 per cent globally in 2018. Soon it will be cheaper in all countries to install new renewable capacity than to continue to run existing coal plants.
The International Renewable Energy Association produced analysis this year showing that boosting investment in renewables would increase jobs in the sector to 42 million globally by 2050, four times more than today.
The arguments for a clean energy transition are clear and we will support Nigeria as it makes that transition. By ending the use of polluting sources of power and speeding up the move to renewables, we can both reduce emissions and support a green and resilient economic recovery. At this critical turning point for our planet, there is no time to waste. Llewellyn-Jones is the British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Nigeria.