The need for a complete transformation of the global energy system away from fossil fuels to renewables is critical to avert increasingly dangerous climate change impacts. The technology exists but time is not on our side.
Access to reliable weather, water and climate information and services will be increasingly important to strengthen the resilience of energy infrastructure and support the energy transition.
These were the underlying message from the World Meteorological Organization at Energy Day at the UN climate change negotiations, COP27, on 15 November.
"Greenhouse gas concentrations are at record levels,” said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Dr Elena Manaenkova. “Unless there are immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sector, limiting global warming to 1.5°C will be beyond reach.”
“Options are available now in every sector that can at least halve emissions by 2030," Dr Manaenkova said at an event at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change pavilion with the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO).
WMO’s recent report on the State of Climate Services 2022 on Energy showed how Energy is at the very heart of our response to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Given that the energy sector contributes around three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions, rapid decarbonization to achieve Net zero by 2050 is vital. As governments and utilities switch to solar, hydropower and wind, they need to ensure security of supply, including in the event of extreme weather events.
A side-event at the Science for Climate Action pavilion co-hosted by WMO presented some of the main conclusions of the State of Climate Services 2022 report on Energy.
Robust climate-science based tools are fundamental to advise energy planners and policy makers.
Expanding energy systems are increasingly exposed to the hazards of weather and climate. It is therefore critical to assess at local level what both past and future climate scenarios reveal about observed and expected changes in local climate patterns and more frequent extreme weather events.
Climate change puts energy security at risk: Climate change is directly affecting fuel supply, energy production, physical resilience of energy infrastructure, and energy demand.
In 2020, 87% of electricity generated globally, including nuclear, thermal and hydropower, directly depended on water availability. Hydropower resources typically suffer in hot and dry conditions, but so do nuclear and fossil fuel power plants.
Such climate-driven events have an impact on generation potential and efficiency, the physical resilience of transmission and distribution networks, and demand patterns. In many countries, extreme weather like heatwaves and cold waves, wildfires, cyclones and floods are the dominant cause of large-scale outages. These result in large economic losses for all stakeholders and costs are expected to increase if we do not invest in adaptation measures and build resilience.
Climate action plans must prioritize energy:
Despite these risks, just 40% of climate action plans submitted by governments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) prioritize adaptation in the energy sector, and investment is correspondingly low.
Current pledges by countries fall well short of what is needed to meet the objectives set by the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well below 2 °C – leaving a 70% gap in the amount of emissions reductions needed by 2030.
Renewable energy pledges represent less than half of what is needed to keep the 2 °C goal alive.
The world is set to fall short of achieving the goal of universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030, as set out in SDG 7, by a wide margin.
Renewable energy systems are weather and climate dependent, so the transition to clean energy calls for improved climate information and services to ensure energy security and achieving Net Zero.