Despite the major drop in energy demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, countries have still not met their “unambitious renewable energy targets” by 2020, according to the green energy policy network REN21.
In its annual report, REN21 said primary energy demand has fallen by 4 percent in 2020 as the pandemic has shut down economies, industry and reduced travel. However, it found that countries are “a long way from making the necessary paradigm shift towards a clean, healthier and more equitable energy future”.
While global CO2 emissions fell sharply last year, this trend is expected to reverse in 2021 due to the resurgence of economies and rising demand for coal.
The report also stated that the share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is as high as it was ten years ago (80.3 percent versus 80.2 percent today) and that the share of renewable energy has only increased slightly.
“We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policies promised over the past decade have been largely empty words. The share of fossil fuels in the final energy consumption has not changed an inch,” said Rana Adib, Executive Director of REN21.
“Phasing them out and making renewable energy the new normal are the strongest measures we can take.” While the past decade has seen an exponential increase in new renewable energy facilities around the world, it has been accompanied by a global increase in energy demand.
REN21 offered some hope, recognizing that the energy sector has made “great progress”, with almost all new power capacity being made in renewables. More than 256 GW was added globally in 2020, surpassing the previous record by nearly 30 percent.
In many regions – including parts of China, the EU, India and the US – it is now increasingly cheaper to build new wind or PV plants than to operate existing coal plants.
“The transition to renewable energy is gaining speed because it makes both business and ecological sense. Renewable electricity already creates millions of jobs, saves companies money and gives millions of people access to energy.
But companies and governments need to move faster, not only for the environment, but also to stay competitive in a sustainable economy of the 21st century,” said Sam Kimmins, head of climate group RE100.
The report notes that while there has been a wave of stronger pledges to take action against the climate crisis by 2020, including targets for net-zero emissions by China, Japan and South Korea, the Covid-19 recovery packages are sixfold. have yielded more investment in fossil fuels than in renewable energy.