Spending big on renewable energy could lift the global economy out of the doldrums and create millions of new jobs worldwide.
The social and economic crisis set off by COVID-19 will require a massive fiscal response to offset the economic damage – and one of the best places to spend is on renewables, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
“Economic recovery packages must serve to accelerate a just transition,” said Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA. “The European Green Deal, to take an existing example, shows how energy investments could align with global climate goals. The time has come to invest trillions, not into fossil fuels, but into sustainable energy infrastructure.”
IRENA has flagged a number of possible scenarios for the transition, including the current approach to meeting climate goals, which will cost around $95 trillion while still leading to a significant temperature rise.
But IRENA’s Transforming Energy Scenario – which would have an additional cost of US$19 trillion to 2050 – would result in payback of between $50 trillion and $142 trillion in reduced environmental and health costs, as well as keeping global temperatures under control. It would also lead to a massive increase in jobs.
“Energy jobs overall would reach 100 million by 2050, about 40 million more than today,” IRENA’s report reads. “The transition would result in 7 million more jobs economy-wide compared to current plans. Environmental and health benefits, along with broad improvements in people’s welfare, would be felt in every region of the world.”
The Transforming Energy Scenario would see massive investment in flexible power grids, electrical vehicle charging systems, energy storage and other clean energy technologies – safeguarding against greater accumulation of stranded assets.
South Korea has already announced that it will launch a “Green New Deal” that will see its aim to be Asia’s first net-zero emitter by 2050, with other countries expected to follow suit.
“COVID-19 does not change the existential path required to decarbonise our societies and meet sustainability goals,” Mr Camera said. “By making the energy transition an integral part of the wider recovery, governments can achieve a step change in the pursuit of a healthy, inclusive, prosperous, just and resilient future.”
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