Global shift towards clean energy is picking up steam: report

The global shift towards clean energy has moved into high gear around the world, but Canadian policy makers still need to do more, a new report says.

Clean Energy Canada says investors yanked $50B US in capital out of fossil fuel stocks

A new report estimates the clean energy market - representing hydro, solar and wind power - is now worth $788 billion US. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Just as hundreds of invitation-only delegates sit down in Toronto this week for a two-day climate summit, a new report says the global shift towards clean energy has moved into high gear around the world, but Canadian policy makers still need to do more.

In the report titled "Tracking the Global Energy Revolution," the authoring organization Clean Energy Canada says investors moved nearly $300 billion US into renewable energy in 2014, up 17 per cent from the year before.

Investors also moved $50 billion US in capital out of fossil fuel stocks, likely driven by the crash in oil prices. 

Part of those changes is due to declining costs for technologies related to hydro, solar and wind power — $1 goes much further when building panels than it did before.

The report also says the entire clean energy market is now worth an estimated $788 billion US. 

'Remarkable piece of evidence'

The strongest evidence for this global shift, according to the report, was a recent assessment from the International Energy Agency, indicating global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector actually stalled in 2014. That has only happened three other times in 40 years, and all were associated with a global economic downturn. The global economy expanded in 2014 by three per cent.

"There's no shortage of bad news these days, but the good news is that renewables are capably delivering the energy we need and plateaued the growth of carbon pollution last year," said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada. "Connect the dots between these trends and it's clear that the global clean-energy shift is picking up speed. Canadian policy makers need to start paying closer attention," Smith added.

Climate summit kicks off

Among those attending this week's Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto are former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, both of whom are expected to speak.

The goal is to bolster the fight against climate change by focusing on what measures have already been taken and showing individual jurisdictions — from the community, to the city, to the provincial level — what can be done to further curb emissions.

The Clean Energy report released Tuesday pointed to a growing number of governments implementing a carbon-pricing program. Globally, 39 national and 23 sub-national jurisdictions now have one, including British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario.

As for what Canada should do next, the report makes three recommendations:

  1. Make clean energy a trade priority. The federal government needs to make it easier for Canadian companies to export low-carbon innovations, services, and smarts.
  2. Collaborate with clean energy leaders. Although Ottawa signed a trilateral clean energy deal with the U.S. and Mexico, it reportedly declined to join the U.S. in deals with China and India.
  3. Play a constructive role in the Paris 2015 Climate Talks. Before those critical negotiations begin in December, Canada needs to have a clear plan to deliver on its new target announced in May to cut emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Read the full report here.


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