Planet Earth hits major renewables milestone

Globe hits 30 percent renewable threshold - Newsreel
Despite concerns about meeting global warming targets, Planet Earth hit a major renewables threshold in 2023. | Photo: iStock

Planet Earth has reached a major threshold point on renewable energy after achieving “astonishing” growth during 2023.

Despite this, researchers are warning that current climate commitments from countries will not be enough to hit the 1.5 deg C global heating cap set under the Paris Agreement.

Two different bodies of research released this week starkly highlight the challenges and opportunities in dealing with climate change.

The London-based energy think-tank Ember released its latest report showing that the world was now generating 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources for the first time.

Writing in the Semafor publication, Ember Global Insights Director Dave Jones said 444 gigawatts of new solar capacity was added in 2023, double the figure the previous year.

“The pace of change is astonishing,” he said. “ Hydropower has historically been the dominant source of the world’s renewable electricity, providing around a sixth of the world’s electricity in the last two decades.

“But the newcomers on the scene – solar and wind – are driving all the recent growth. Together, they generated a record 13 percent of global electricity in 2023, double what they accounted for in 2017.”

Ember said there was still plenty of upside to come with “sunny” countries like Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia still generating less than three percent of their power from solar.

Tempering the optimism was new research released by the University of East Anglia (UEA) that suggested current country plans to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would not be enough to comply with the 1.5 deg C warming limit set out under the Paris Agreement.

“Since 2010, the United Nations environmental organisation UNEP has taken an annual measurement of the emissions gap – the difference between countries’ climate protection pledges and what is necessary to limit global heating to 1.5 deg C, or at least below 2 deg C,” the university said in a statement.

“The UNEP Emissions Gap Reports are clear: climate policy needs more ambition. Without a rapid reduction in emissions towards zero, across all sectors, the 1.5 deg C limit will not be met under any circumstances.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change and was led by the Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and involved an international team of scientists. More details can be found on the University of East Anglia website.