Fossil fuels are the source of 85% of today’s energy, but this is changing and for the better. Energy accounts for two thirds of greenhouse-gas emissions and the pollution arising from burning kills over 4 million people every year, primarily in the emerging world’s big cities.
Covid-19 has greatly impacted the world economy and, as a result, demand for oil has dropped by more than 20%, and the price of oil has collapsed to levels that cannot support the budgets of countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia. The consequences of the virus have also opened the eyes of the world to climate change and the need for clean energy. This is a good thing, with the European Union earmarking the equivalent of 30% of its €750billion Covid-19 recovery plan for climate measures. Ursula Von der Leyen, the EU’s President, wants the EU to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by over 55% from 1990 levels during the period to 2030.
Renewable electricity such as solar and wind power today account for around 5% of global supply, but with the right investment this could rise to 25% by 2035, and nearly 50% by 2050. De-carbonising energy will have a dramatic impact on droughts, famine, floods, fires and mass migration of people. It is therefore hugely important that clean energy initiatives, investment and innovation are at the top of government agendas as the world becomes less reliant on fossil fuels and their harmful effects on the global environment.
A better, cleaner system of energy production must, however, be evenly spread and not concentrated in the hands of a few mega-states. Whilst China leads the world in the manufacture of key components and new technologies, the EU is home to giant developers of wind and solar farms. The USA has concentrated on the production of shale oil and gas, but investment in green power, national energy laboratories and its formidable universities will prevent it from falling behind.
The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy must not be delayed. Capital markets and investors should continue to push for and reward new technology and innovation. Investment in clean energy is, at present, falling dramatically short of what is required to keep temperatures within 1.5°c of pre-industrial levels to reduce the effect of climate change. Clean energy is the future for mankind and the planet, as we have all noticed during lockdown around the world. We must not forget the benefits of clean air and reduced pollution – changes in the way we live and the energy we consume must continue and grow rapidly.