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delegates at 10 General assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi. The Assembly kicked off Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2020. Image Credit:

Abu Dhabi: The capacity of renewable energy installed worldwide has more than doubled over the last decade, yet the world needs to deploy renewables six times faster to cap global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

Addressing delegates at the 10th general assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), top United Nations officials called for a worldwide phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies and a decarbonisation of the transport sector.

“The impacts of climate change are upon us faster than we predicted. While more renewable than fossil and nuclear capacity has been installed each year over the last four years, there are still many barriers to entry,” Antonio Guterres, United Nations secretary-general, said in a statement delivered to the general assembly by the president of its 10th session, Ali Kirunda Kivejinja.

“Indeed, we still need to overcome many technical and legislative challenges, including the continued supply of renewable power,” added Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment.

ADSW 2020 begins

The Irena assembly marks the official start of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2020 (ADSW 2020), which aims to encourage clean technologies and promote action against climate change. It will run until January 18, and include flagship events like the World Future Energy Summit and the Zayed Sustainability Prize.

This session of the Irena assembly saw many delegates draw attention to what they called “a climate crisis that is already upon us”, even as the global renewable installed capacity has continued to increase from 1.1 gigawatts in 2009 to 2.37 gigawatts.

Speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the assembly, Dr Al Zeyoudi elaborated on the main challenges in the renewables sector.

Renewable energy challenges

“One of the main challenges globally when it comes to renewable deployment is the assurance of being able to provide power 24/7, so we’re talking about storage technology, and the strength and capacity of the batteries. These are still not up to mark required to make renewables [reliable],” he said.

“We are glad these challenges are part of the discussion this year. The UAE has already started implementing some of these projects, including hydrogen technology, which is expected to transform storage options and the transportation sector,” the minister added.

He also said that the UAE has increased its installed renewable energy capacity from just 10 megawatts in 2009 to 1300 megawatts in 2019, with another 6,600 megawatts to be added by 2030.

Added investment needed

According to the Irena, which currently consists of 161 members, investment in a transformation of the worldwide energy sector needs investment to increase from a planned $95 trillion (Dh349 million) by 2050 to $110 trillion (Dh404 trillion). This also includes switching certain investments from fossil fuels to renewables, said Franceso La Camera, Irena director general.

“But the savings brought about by fossil fuel subsidies and reduced externalities will mean that every $1 invested will yield $3 to $7,” he said.

Renewables sector

The worldwide renewables sector is also expected to provide 87.2 million jobs by 2050, having added 11 million jobs in 2018 alone. But added investment could increase this to 99.8 million, while also raising worldwide GDP by 2.5 per cent.

“We have 10 years left to fulfil the commitment set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This period will also be decisive for the ability to hold the line on rising global temperatures. Transitioning to clean energy systems is at the heart of these global agendas,” La Camera added.

Key figures

2.37 gigawatts of installed renewable energy capacity

11 million jobs and more in renewables sector worldwide at present