Eleven of the 20 largest economies got a C or worse on a renewable energy report card, which assessed their plans to reach net zero and their targets for producing and using renewable energy. James Dinneen discusses the new results in an article on the new scientist website.
World’s richest countries fall short on renewable energy targets
Most of the world’s 20 largest economies, known as the G20, lack ambitious renewable energy targets or are falling short of their climate commitments, according to a report by climate and renewable energy advocacy groups.
The G20, which includes 19 countries and the European Union (EU) and Spain as a permanent guest, is responsible for around 80 per cent of global energy-related emissions. This gives the group significant responsibility to reduce emissions as well as influence over the world’s pace to decarbonise, says Mike Peirce at the Climate Group, a UK nonprofit that advocates for climate action.
Peirce, along with others from the Climate Group and a renewable energy research group called REN21, analysed data on renewable energy development within G20 countries to rank their progress towards renewable energy goals. A “sustainable energy transition” is a top priority to be discussed during the G20’s annual conference in Bali in November.
The researchers considered five indicators, including the ambition of targets for net zero emissions and targets for the generation and consumption of renewable energy, as well as the amount of renewable energy actually generated and consumed within G20 countries over the last decade or so. Their analysis didn’t include the EU as a whole, but included countries part of both the EU and the G20. They presented their work at Climate Week NYC on 20 September.
Eleven of the 20 countries in the analysis scored a C or lower, meaning there was “little or no consideration” of economy-wide renewable targets and ambitious net-zero strategies, or renewables were at most a “moderate” part of the energy mix.
“There are incremental improvements made in the past year across many countries, but it’s not fast enough as far as the Paris Agreement 1.5°C target is concerned,” says Takeshi Kuramochi at the New Climate Institute, a German think tank.
Countries graded as C included Turkey, South Africa, Mexico and India. In India, renewables supplied 32 per cent of the country’s energy in 2021, and the government has pledged to be net zero by 2070.
Countries with a D or E grade, which the report characterised as “stragglers”, included Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, South Korea and Argentina. Saudi Arabia and Russia were ranked last. Renewables made up just 1 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s energy capacity in 2021.
One bright spot is that in most of the G20, almost all new capacity built in 2021 was renewable, says Kuramochi. “The technology is there in most cases,” he says. “What is lacking is political will.”
Countries with an A grade were Italy, the UK, China, Spain and Germany, which all have net-zero targets within official policy documents and had at least 40 per cent of their energy needs met with renewable sources in 2021. The US scored a B with 27 per cent of its energy supplied by renewable sources in 2021, with targets to reach 100 per cent by 2035. Other countries with a B grade were France, Japan and Australia.
This is an improvement from 2018, when just six G20 countries had official plans to reduce emissions by 2050. But even the top-ranked countries can move faster, says Peirce. “Progress is needed across the board in the G20,” he says.