Just months after a historic climate conference in Paris, I can’t help but marvel at how far the world has progressed in the uptake of renewable energy. Take solar power, for example. What used to be a prohibitively expensive endeavor just years ago, is now a household-level solution in many countries. Then there are the record-setting solar auctions in countries like Zambia, the United Arab Emirates, India, Mexico, and Peru.
So what’s the next critical piece of the puzzle in our global efforts to provide sustainable energy for all?
In my view – and that of many others – it is to establish a viable, stationary solution to store energy. While stationary energy storage on a large scale has always been around – hydro energy storage, as an example, is efficient and cost effective – it is tied to topography and difficult to add at will. The cost of batteries has also been a big obstacle to widespread deployment and was a primary reason for the electricity grid to be designed as the biggest real-time delivery systems humans have ever made.
The World Region
Imagine for a moment that the most advanced spaceship visited Earth in full view of the planet’s inhabitants. From this spaceship, a humanoid life form named Klaatu emerges, followed shortly after by a menacingly large robot. Klaatu’s message to the people of Earth is revealed in one of the climactic exchanges of this story with the protagonist, Helen Benson, a young female scientist that was at the forefront of her field:
Helen Benson: I need to know what’s happening.
Klaatu: This planet is dying. The human race is killing it.
Helen Benson: So you’ve come here to help us.
Klaatu: No, I didn’t.
Helen Benson: You said you came to save us.
Klaatu: I said I came to save the Earth.
Helen Benson: You came to save the Earth… from us. You came to save the Earth from us.
Klaatu: We can’t risk the survival of this planet for the sake of one species.
Helen Benson: What are you saying?
Klaatu: If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives. There are only a handful of planets in the cosmos that are capable of supporting complex life…
Helen Benson: You can’t do this.
Klaatu: …this one can’t be allowed to perish.
Helen Benson: We can change. We can still turn things around.
Klaatu: We’ve watched, we’ve waited and hoped that you would change.
Helen Benson: Please…
Klaatu: It’s reached the tipping point. We have to act.
On March 19, millions of people across the globe will turn their lights off for one hour. For many, Earth Hour is a time to recognize and acknowledge the array of challenges our world faces on energy, climate, and poverty.
Almost 3 billion still use air-polluting and carbon-emitting solid fuels (such as wood, coal and dung) for cooking and heating.
Some of us have seen these numbers so many times, they no longer seem as alarming as they should. Their impact has worn thin... So to recognize this reality for millions of our fellow human beings and to raise awareness of energy poverty, here are a few things you can do for Earth Hour on Saturday, March 19:
One of the most important findings noted at the Africa launch of the World Bank's Progress Toward Sustainable Energy: Global Tracking Framework 2015 (GTF) report for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, is that despite recent trends to increase investment in the energy sector, we still need to double the number of new connections to modern energy services per year to reach universal access to energy by 2030.
Universalizing access to clean, modern energy services is at the heart of our ability to deliver on the new globally agreed sustainable development goals and climate agreements. Knowing this, the panel of experts discussing the findings of the report at the Africa Energy Indaba was asked a key question by Anita Marangoly George, Senior Director of the Bank's Energy and Extractives Global Practice - did we think achieving the universal access goal was possible in just a decade and a half?
At this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, leaders are not hiding their concerns about the commodities downturn.
Government representatives express their frustration for not having benefited enough during the boom. Policymakers lament the lack of planning that has left their countries with no cushion in their budgets, and companies are looking to cut costs so they can weather the storm. And most importantly, communities are feeling the economic impact as mines purchase less local supplies, generate fewer jobs and halt some operations.
Not only are things slowing down, but it seems a golden opportunity has passed us by. Fatima Denton, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, highlighted that Africa is less industrialized today than it was in 1990. After the minerals super cycle of 2000-2013, the percentage of manufacturing of African economies actually declined from 12% to 11%.
One of the biggest bangs at the opening day of the Paris COP21 climate summit was without doubt the dual financing announcements by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, led by Bill Gates and other high-net-worth individuals, and the Mission Innovation, whose signatory governments have committed to doubling their allocations to clean energy research. The two initiatives aim to increase financing for clean energy innovation, from the basic research stage, funded by governments, to commercialization of promising new technologies—with venture financing provided by private investors.
In developing countries, where many households and companies have very limited access to energy, new clean energy technologies will serve the dual purpose of expanding energy access and constraining carbon emissions. For this to happen, innovative thinking will be needed not only in the development of new technology, but also in financing the deployment of these technologies.
The two initiatives announced in Paris reflect the realization that carbon dioxide emissions would continue to rise even if every commitment to cut carbon emissions were fulfilled. By 2035, the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere will already exceed the estimated levels required to maintain the internationally agreed 2 degrees Celsius limit. The development of new technologies will increase the options available to efficiently address climate change.
What are some stories that caught your attention in 2015?
They are ones that focus on people, data and events tied to sustainable growth, climate action and efforts to end energy poverty.
As we look ahead to 2016 we’d like to recap 12 popular stories that many of you read and shared in 2015. Thank you for a year of continued and growing readership. Tell us in a comment what you’d like to hear more of in the next year.
The world forged a historic climate deal in Paris on Saturday, cheered on and celebrated by people around the world. Getting to that agreement has involved years of work and collaboration that resulted in what many of us thought we would not witness in our life time. The agreement is in—now it's time for us to help the countries we work with to put their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) into action.
Being in Paris was exhilarating. The World Bank Group team was active on many fronts—the support for carbon prices, the Africa Climate Business Plan, our work on renewable energy, energy efficiency and contribution to energy access. How do we waste less, pollute less and do more to promote energy access?
One such initiative that was strongly supported at COP21 was the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative. The one-page text that took almost a year of negotiations and discussion commits endorsers to end routine gas flaring in new oil fields and eliminate ongoing “legacy” gas flaring as soon as possible and no later than 2030. If all oil-producing countries and companies endorse the Initiative, it will make available approximately 140 billion cubic meters of gas each year. If used to generate electricity, this amount of gas could power all of Africa. The Initiative was initially supported by 25 endorsers—pioneers—who recognized ending routine gas flaring as an industry practice is a no brainer and an important contribution that oil and gas companies can make towards addressing climate change. Twenty-two more endorsers have joined since the Initiative was launched to take the total to 47 endorsers representing 100 million tons of CO2 emission reduction each year and more than 40 percent of gas that will no longer be flared. At COP21, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed, announced that Nigeria will endorse the Initiative—great news for the people of Nigeria, especially those who live near flare sites.
(See an inspiring video featuring Faith Nwadishi from Nigeria.)
Six months. Forty-five endorsers. We’re well on our way to an ambitious new de facto global standard for the oil and gas industry.
It feels like just yesterday senior representatives from 25 governments, oil companies and development institutions came together with the U.N. Secretary General and World Bank President to launch a global initiative—“Zero Routine Flaring by 2030”—to end the oil industry practice of routinely flaring gas at oil production sites around the world.
Today, 45 endorsers representing over 40 percent of global gas flaring have stepped forward to commit to not wastefully flare gas in new oil field developments and to end existing (legacy) routine gas flaring as soon as possible and no later than 2030.
And we expect the number of endorsers to keep growing till all major oil-producing countries and companies make the same commitment.
Global warming can be limited by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gases stemming from human activities - particularly in the energy, industry, transport, and building sectors—which together account for over 75% of global emissions. So low carbon technologies are key to achieving mitigation while creating new economic opportunities.
Since 2008, the $5.3 billion Clean Technology Fund (CTF) - one of the $8.1 billion Climate Investment Funds' (CIF) four funding windows—has been partnering with multilateral development banks (MDBs), including the World Bank and the IFC, to provide concessional financing to large-scale country-led projects and programs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.
As the world gets ready for the climate negotiations in Paris later this month, the governing bodies of CTF met in Washington D.C. MDBs, donor countries, recipient countries and civil society organizations gathered to, among other things, share the results and lessons of how the CTF is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating energy savings, and improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people by creating jobs and reducing pollution.
The CTF report card is based on the results from operational projects and programs over a one year period. In total, the CTF has achieved 20 mtCO2e in emission reductions—that’s the equivalent to taking four and a half million cars off the road or shutting down six coal fired power plants.