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Global Renewable Energy Target, 2030 UPSC NOTE

 UNFCCC

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system", in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

  • It was signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. 

  • Its original secretariat was in Geneva but relocated to Bonn in 1996.

  • It entered into force on 21 March 1994.

  • The treaty called for ongoing scientific research and regular meetings, negotiations, and future policy agreements designed to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

  • The Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in 1997 and ran from 2005 to 2020, was the first implementation of measures under the UNFCCC.

  • The Kyoto Protocol was superseded by the Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016.

  • By 2022, the UNFCCC had 198 parties. 

  • Its supreme decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties (COP), meets annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change.

  • Because key signatory states are not adhering to their individual commitments, the UNFCCC has been criticized as being unsuccessful in reducing the emission of carbon dioxide since its adoption.

  • The treaty established different responsibilities for three categories of signatory states. 

Three categories of signatory states:

  • These categories are developed countries, developed countries with special financial responsibilities, and developing countries.

  • The developed countries, also called Annex 1 countries. 

  • Annex I countries are called upon to adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change by limiting their anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases as well as to report on steps adopted with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 emission levels. 

  • Developed countries with special financial responsibilities are called Annex II countries.

  • They include all Annex I countries with the exception of those in transition to democracy and market economies. 

  • Annex II countries are called upon to provide new and additional financial resources to meet the costs incurred by developing countries in complying with their obligation to produce national inventories of their emissions by sources and their removals by sinks for all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol.

  • Developing countries are then required to submit their inventories to the UNFCCC secretariat.

Achievements of UNFCCC

  • Originally only rich nations were required to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, which became a point of contention. However, this discrepancy was resolved by signing the Paris agreement in 2015.

  • UNFCCC has proved to play an important role in enhancing the learning, understanding, and scientific knowledge about climate change over the past two decades.

  • It has successfully achieved the target of creating plans to save the climatic change crisis and implementing them under the National Adaptation Programs of Action.

  • UNFCCC takes various measures for developing countries to curb the problem of climate change by initiating innovative ideas like the Clean Development Mechanism.

  • The establishment of UNFCCC is a great achievement as, with its establishment, countries have started paying attention to climate change as a problem and have started to think about it to save the earth.

  • UNFCCC has been helpful to developing and underdeveloped nations in reducing the climate crisis by helping them in the form of financial aid, technological help, and organizing meetings and discussions at the global level.

Drawbacks of UNFCCC

  • Unsustainable Targets

  • Unsatisfactory Response

  • Financial Constraints

  • The Kyoto Protocol ignores the small particles produced by car engines and combustion-based power plants, which most scientists think are the most harmful environmental air pollutants.

  • Slow Progress

  • Non-Binding Agreement

  • No Enforcement Mechanism

Global Renewable Energy Target, 2030

  • The presidency of the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) of the UNFCCC to be held in Dubai (November 30-December 12), has called for agreement on a global target of tripling renewable energy capacity from current levels by 2030. 

  • This figure appears in the G-20 declaration too, though only as an aspirational goal to be encouraged.

Global Renewable Energy Target, 2030

  • In 2021, the global installed capacity of renewable energy sources (RES) for electricity generation was 3026 Giga Watts (GW).

  • In total electricity generation however, the contribution by RES was only 28%. 

  • More than half the RE generation was from hydropower, while solar (13%) and wind (23%).

  • Tripling RE capacity by 2030 implies a target of about 9000 GW, which is more than the total installed capacity from all sources in 2021, adding about 6000 GW of RE capacity between 2022 and 2030.

  • Most of this capacity is expected to come from solar and wind, as the time for construction and operationalisation of any hydro plants, will typically exceed the timeline of 2030 being considered. 

  • Assuming a capacity utilisation factor of 25% for solar and wind combined — more than is current — this implies the generation of about 13,000 TWh of electricity from RES alone. 

  • If growth in global electricity demand is at the pre-COVID-19 decade average of 2.6%, then the target of tripling RE capacity implies 38% of total global electricity production from RES.

Challenges

Regionally differentiated energy needs:

  • Electricity demand across countries is highly differentiated, and the rates of growth vary for countries at different stages of development.

  • Electricity demand is growing far more rapidly in developing countries currently. 

  • Electricity consumption between 2010 and 2019 in China and India grew annually at 6.6% and 6.3%, respectively, compared to a 0.3% decline in the European Union (EU) and a minimal 0.12% growth in the United States. 

  • It is evident that any substantial RE addition in the EU and the U.S. must come from an accelerated phaseout of their fossil fuel use by 2030. 

  • Currently, only 21% of the electricity in the U.S., and 37% in the EU comes from RES (including hydro and biomass).

  • If the U.S. does not phase out its existing fossil fuel capacity, it will need only about 26 GW of new RE capacity to meet additional demand, and its share of the tripling target of an additional 6000 GW by 2030, would be only a measly 0.4%.

  • At the same time, since India would need about 717 GW of RE capacity to meet additional demand, its share of the tripling target would be 12%. 

  • On the other hand, if all the fossil fuel-based electricity production of the U.S. and the EU is phased out, they would need to add about 1565 GW and 538 GW of additional RE capacity, respectively (again assuming current rates of electricity demand growth and a capacity utilisation factor (CUF) of 25% for wind and solar combined).

  • In the second scenario, with a full phase-out of fossil fuel-based capacity, the U.S. and the EU would account for more than a third of the new capacity, closer to their fair share of the burden.

  • This would also allow developing countries a less onerous transition in the energy sector, without the North appropriating even the meagre remaining carbon budget with their still considerable fossil fuel capacity.

  • In the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) analysis, most of the non-RE capacity to be added by 2030 is in developing regions. 

  • By 2030, 80% of power generation capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa is to be from RE sources, as compared to only 70% for the EU. 

  • The EU and Sub-Saharan Africa are projected to add about the same amount of RE capacity by 2050, though the non-RE capacity in the EU continues to be more than four times that of Sub-Saharan Africa. 

  • China and India are to do much more, with India needing to exceed even the very ambitious 500 GW mark by 2030.

Problem of divorcing capacity addition from growth in energy demand:

  • Absolute projections of installed capacity suffer from the fundamental problem of divorcing capacity addition from growth in energy demand.

  • IRENA itself recognises that relative targets are inherently less risky as they are less dependent on demand growth matching expectations.

  • This enormous increase in RE capacity is not possible without matching non-RE capacity for stability of supply, and the availability of viable storage options that are as yet nowhere near the scale envisaged by such ambitious targets.

  • Finding the resources to build national grids adequate for their development needs at such dizzying levels of scaling up of RE capacity will pose additional challenges, given the inability to reach even the minimal annual target of $100 billion of climate finance covering all sectors.

Way forward

  • Developing countries at COP28, especially India, should consider the tripling global RE capacity target only if the North commits to absolute targets domestically, that are equitable and commensurate with their responsibility, in an update of their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Global Renewable Energy Target, 2030 UPSC NOTE
Global Renewable Energy Target, 2030 UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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