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‘Complete transformation’ of global energy industry needed, says WMO

Image credit: pa

Limiting the global temperature rise would require doubling renewable energy production over the next eight years, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Climate change risks undermining global energy security unless the use of renewables is dramatically scaled up, the UN has warned, also suggesting that the ripple effect of the conflict in Ukraine could speed up the green transition.

In its 2022 State of Climate Services, the WMO has warned that increasingly intense extreme weather events, droughts, floods and sea-level rise are already making the energy supply less reliable. 

It also stressed that in order to limit the global temperature rise which is undermining energy security, electricity tapped from clean energy sources must double over the next eight years.

“Net zero by 2050 is the aim," said WMO chief Petteri Taalas. "But we will only get there if we double the supply of low-emissions electricity within the next eight years”.

Currently, the energy sector is responsible for an estimated 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, this impact could increase alongside the rising demand for energy, which has jumped 30 per cent over the past ten years.

The WMO stressed that the current energy infrastructure is being threatened by extreme weather events, caused by the rise in global temperatures, which are set to become "more and more frequent", as most of this infrastructure is located in areas vulnerable to climate change. 

As an example, Taalas mentioned the historic heatwave that sparked massive power outages in Buenos Aires in January this year, while other experts mentioned the recent disruptions to electricity production amid heatwaves and shrinking reservoirs in both Europe and China.

In addition, as of 2020, as much as 87 per cent of global electricity generated by thermal, nuclear and hydroelectric power plants directly depended on having freshwater for cooling, the WMO said - a global resource that could become scarcer and harder to access in years to come. 

Currently, one-third of power plants running on fossil fuels and 11 per cent of hydroelectric dams are in areas of high water stress, as are 15 per cent of existing nuclear power plants - a number expected to rise to 25 per cent in the next 20 years.

“Time is not on our side and our climate is changing before our eyes”, Taalas said, calling for “a complete transformation of the global energy system”.

In May this year, the EU announced its intention to reform its energy industry, after revealing its plan to cut 90 per cent of oil imports from Russia by the end of the year, in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the measure has resulted in rising oil and gas prices across the bloc, which have led EU officials to request reductions in bloc nations’ electricity use of as much as 15 per cent.

However, Taalas considered the Ukraine war as a necessary warning that has raised awareness over the need to make changes in the current energy industry, claiming it has demonstrated the dangers of dependence on unreliable energy sources and could speed up the green transition.

"From a climate perspective, the war in Ukraine may be seen as a blessing," he said.

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