Climate Change and Renewables

Renewable energy is that which is derived from any natural resource which can replace itself quickly and dependably without running out. Sources of renewable energy are typically part of our everyday environment including the sun, wind, water and even waste.

What is the impact of climate change?

The Paris Agreement was reached on 12 December 2015 when Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate the pathway towards a sustainable low carbon economy.

The Agreement’s central aim was to keep the global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to attempt to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning that the impact of even 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming will be far greater than expected.

After all, we’ve seen an astonishing run of record-breaking storms, forest fires, droughts, coral bleaching, heat waves and floods around the world over the last decade with just 1 degree Celsius of global warming. It’s hardly surprising that we should expect much of this to get substantially worse with any further rises.

The difference between a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius could have a huge impact on our planet.

Biodiversity is a big casualty of climate change. Temperature rises make it harder for vulnerable ecosystems and the species which rely on them to adapt. It means we face losing species, even to the point of extinction, both on land and in the sea. Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable and if warming does reach 2 degrees celcius we’re on a path to lose virtually all coral reefs by 2100.

The Arctic as a barometer

The Arctic is also a clear barometer of climate change. If we continue our path to 2 degrees warming we could see an ice-free Arctic every decade. Yet if we lower warming to just 1.5 degrees we can make this just a once in a century occurrence.

Environmental issues are only one consequence of climate change. There are serious implications for our health, socio-economic development, food security, infrastructure and productivity, transportation and energy sectors.

In November 2018, The Lancet published a report warning that climate change impacts – from heatwaves to worsening storms, floods and fires – threatened to overwhelm health systems. That same month, Thomson Reuters Foundation warned that air pollution from burning fossil fuels is cutting global life expectancy by an average of 1.8 years per person, making it the world’s top killer.

In January 2019 The World Economic Forum released their annual Global Risks Report, and for the third year in a row, environmental threats dominate the list both in terms of impact and likelihood.

Biodiversity loss is a big concern and The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 species across the globe, reports a 60% decline in average abundance since 1970. It also has potentially dire implications for health and socio-economic development thanks to the impact on the human food chain. The report suggests that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are affecting the nutritional composition of staple crops such as rice and wheat. Research suggests that by 2050 this could lead to zinc deficiencies for 175 million people, protein deficiencies for 122 million, and loss of dietary iron for 1 billion.

Meanwhile, the increase in severe weather events caused by climate change are associated with disruption or complete loss of essential services such as water and energy supplies. Changes in temperature and rainfall place additional pressures on transport and communication infrastructure, in particular the rail, road, water and energy sectors. Climate change also poses risks to industry as empirical evidence shows flooding and extreme weather events damaging assets and disrupting business operations is the greatest risk now and in the future.

Where we can make a difference

Despite all the doom and gloom, the landmark IPCC report also makes it clear that the world has the scientific understanding, the technological capacity and the financial means to tackle climate change. What’s more, there are substantial economic and development benefits to be had through bold climate action.

In March 2019, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published its Public Attitudes Tracker. 80% of people said they were fairly or very concerned about climate change – the highest proportion of overall concern since the survey started. It also shows consistently high levels of support amongst the public for renewable energy. There is a groundswell of support out there for making a change.

So it’s rapid and significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions which is crucial to limiting global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celcius mark as highlighted by the IPCC report who recommend cutting emissions by about 45% between 2010 and 2030 and to reach net zero by around 2050.
This is transformation at an unprecedented scale but there are actions we can take to achieve this.

It requires investment in renewables, improvements to energy efficiency, cutting emissions from transport, and protecting natural systems that store carbon such as forests.

Low Carbon’s role: investing in renewable energy

At Low Carbon we have a fundamental belief that the acceleration of climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity. We are clear: climate change must be arrested before the damage becomes irreversible.

Driving investment in renewables at scale and encouraging the production of clean, carbon-neutral energy is key to our goal of confronting climate change. Equally crucial is the forging of new partnerships enabling us to increase the scale of investment.

Large scale investment in renewable energy
To pursue our goal of a truly global low-carbon future, where carbon emissions are substantially reduced, the climate crisis is tackled and social awareness is transformed, we invest in the development of renewable energy infrastructure.

We leverage all current and proven technologies, backing energy projects and their development teams, whilst managing operational renewable energy assets. Our investment model embraces several technologies including: solar PV, onshore wind, energy storage, waste to energy and energy efficiency.
Enabling investment capital of more than £600 million, we are committed to building capacity efficiently and cost-effectively.

A bee collecting pollen from a large flower with white petals and yellow pollenA bee collecting pollen from a large flower with white petals and yellow pollen

Useful Links

There are many useful resources for learning more about climate change and for monitoring the latest climate change indicators and data.