Despite the promise of a worldwide green recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this historic opportunity has been lost.
REN21’s Renewables 2022 Global Status Report (GSR 2022) sends a clear warning that the global clean energy transition is not happening, making it unlikely that the world will be able to meet critical climate goals this decade.
“Although many more governments committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, the reality is that, in response to the energy crisis, most countries have gone back to seeking out new sources of fossil fuels and to burning even more coal, oil and natural gas,” said Rana Adib, REN21 Executive Director.
The GSR annually takes stock of renewable energy deployment worldwide. The 2022 report is the 17th consecutive edition and provides proof of what experts have been warning about: the overall share of renewables in the world’s final energy consumption has stagnated – rising only minimally from 8.7% in 2009 to 11.7% in 2019 – and the global shift of the energy system to renewables is not happening.
In the electricity sector, record additions in renewable power capacity (314.5 gigawatts, up 17% from 2020) and generation (7,793 terawatt-hours) were unable to meet the overall increase in electricity consumption of 6%. In heating and cooling, the renewable share in final energy consumption increased from 8.9% in 2009 to 11.2% in 2019. In the transport sector, where the renewable share went from 2.4% in 2009 to 3.7% in 2019, the lack of progress is particularly worrying, as the sector accounts for nearly a third of global energy consumption.
For the first time, the GSR 2022 provides a world map of renewable energy shares by country and highlights progress in some of the leading countries.
Despite many new commitments to net zero, political momentum has not translated into action. In the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021, a record 135 countries pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, only 84 of these countries had economy-wide targets for renewable energy, and only 36 had targets for 100% renewables.
The GSR 2022 makes clear that meeting countries’ net zero pledges will require massive efforts, and that the momentum associated with COVID-19 has passed untapped.
Renewables offer the chance for greater justice and energy autonomy.
The GSR 2022 documents that despite renewed commitments to climate action, governments still opted to provide subsidies for fossil fuel production and use as their first choice to mitigate the effects of the energy crisis. Between 2018 and 2020, governments spent a whopping USD 18 trillion – 7% of global GDP in 2020 – on fossil fuel subsidies, in some cases while reducing support to renewables (as in India).
This trend reveals a worrying gap between ambition and action. It also ignores the many opportunities and benefits from transitioning to a renewable-based economy and society, including the ability to achieve more diversified and inclusive energy governance through localised energy generation and value chains. Countries with higher shares of renewables in their total energy consumption enjoy greater energy independence and security.
Access the Renewables 2022 Global Status Report here.