Investments in solar and wind power generation need to increase fast if goals of Paris Agreement are to be met

To meet the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 2 °C, society has to increase investments in low-carbon power generation, especially for solar and wind technologies. This follows from an multi-model scenario study of the international ENGAGE consortium that was recently published in Environmental Research Letters. By contrast, adhering to the current nationally determined contributions for 2030 would lead to irreversible global warming beyond 2 °C. According to Prof. Bob van der Zwaan of Sustainable Energy Technology at the University of Amsterdam, this decade is going to be critical: “If we don’t step up our actions now, we will fall behind in mitigating global warming”.

The ENGAGE study involves a unique scenario ensemble approach that includes seven up-to-date integrated assessment models. According to lead author Christoph Bertram from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, the model intercomparison enables an exploration of energy investments at unprecedented detail: “We have used a consistent and up-to-date set of assumptions that included the recently observed fast technological progress in key mitigation options. In all models, we observe the importance of establishing low-carbon power generation from renewables in the 2020s. This decade will be decisive for achieving ambitious peak warming goals, and the up-scaling of investments in low-carbon power is key.”

Bob van der Zwaan adds that ambitious peak warming targets require decisive greenhouse gas emission cuts before 2030. “We show that the incremental changes foreseen in the nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement do not suffice. They will result in an irreversible overshoot of the 2 °C temperature goal that was agreed upon.” The ENGAGE research shows, Van der Zwaan says, that in the short term investments in the power sector will have the greatest impact on decarbonization. This holds in particular for solar and wind technologies, and for related system enhancements in transmission, distribution and storage of electricity. “According to the analysis, for solar and wind energy the investments may have to be scaled up by a factor of 4 in comparison to current levels.”

The ENGAGE consortium is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. It involves researchers affiliated with 16 European research institutions among which TNO Energy Transition (Amsterdam), the University of Amsterdam, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (The Hague) and the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development (Utrecht University)

Source: University of Amsterdam

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