5. Will a transition to renewable energy address climate change?

A transition to renewable energy for electricity generation is an important component to address climate change. However, a radical change in the way the world produces and uses energy (electricity, fuel and natural gas) is required.  


Currently, about 82 percent of the energy produced in the world is obtained by burning fossil fuels –31 percent oil, 29 percent coal and 22 percent natural gas[1]


Because energy is used by different sectors, the IPCC made a comprehensive analysis by sector to identify measures and policies to be implemented in the next 2-3 decades to transform the way energy is produced and used everywhere. Some examples include increasing the deployment of low-carbon energy for electricity generation[2] (currently non-fossil fuel electricity generation is 30 percent –16 percent from hydropower, 5 percent from renewables and 11 percent from nuclear power[3]), increasing the energy efficiency in the industry sector[4], promoting the conversion of vehicles to low-carbon fuels in the transport sector[5] and including on-site renewable energy systems in existing and new buildings[6]. In addition, options were also assessed in the non-energy sector, including improving crop, water and livestock management and reducing deforestation in the agriculture, forestry and land use sector[7].  


Several INDCs describe measures in various sectors, such as increasing the share of renewable energy, increasing energy efficiency, using fuel efficiency standards in the transport sector, improving crop and livestock production, establishing waste management and recycling programs and promoting the conservation and sustainable management of forests and reducing deforestation. More than half of the INDCs, however, only focus on measures in the energy sector, with some countries aiming at 100 percent renewable energy supply for the electricity sector [8].


Actions to reduce GHG emissions will have to be implemented in all sectors, and not just to transform the generation of electricity. Producing energy without burning fossil fuels (or decarbornizing the production of energy) will be critically important since world population is estimated to increase by 40 percent, to 10 billion by 2050[9], which in turn will double the demand for energy[10], increase the demand for food, clean water, and other basic human needs.





[1] Key World Energy Statistics, International Energy Agency (2015)

[2] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 6 (2014)

[3] Key World Energy Statistics, International Energy Agency (2014)

[4] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 10 (2014)

[5] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 8 (2014)

[6] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 9 (2014)

[7] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 11 (2014)

[8] Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the INDCs (FCCC/CP/2015/7) and UNEP. The Emissions Gap Report 2015 (2015)

[9] World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, United Nations Population Division (2015)

[10] IPCC, AR5, WG III, Chapter 7 (2014)