Sustainable development and energy policy plays a crucial role in shaping our future as the world faces the challenges of climate change. Governments and international organizations have recognized the urgency of transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources. They are working together to explore initiatives, develop strategies and create policies to drive the future of energy.
Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas account for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. These forms of energy are considered the most significant contributor to global climate change (source). The United Nations (UN) states, “To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, emissions need to be reduced by almost half by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.” This means ending our reliance on fossil fuels.
To reach the UN’s goal, we must work together globally, implement policy change, and focus on alternative sources of energy that are clean, sustainable, reliable, affordable, and accessible to all.
In 2015, the first-ever universal, legally binding, global climate change agreement, The Paris Agreement, was adopted at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change. It also aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in their efforts (source).
Under the Biden-Harris administration, the United States rejoined the Paris Agreement. President Biden says, “It is the policy of my Administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security. The United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.”
Current Energy Policy in the United States
The Biden-Harris administration is committed to renewable energy goals and is taking a comprehensive approach across the government. In line with President Biden’s Executive Order, the Interior Department is collaborating with other federal agencies to increase renewable energy production on public lands and waters. Development includes targets of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind by 2035, and at least 25 gigawatts of onshore renewable energy by 2025.
- Approval of the first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects.
- Conducting three offshore wind lease auctions, including a record-breaking sale off New York and the first-ever sale off the Pacific Coast in California.
- Ongoing exploration of Wind Energy Areas in Oregon, the Gulf of Maine, and the Central Atlantic.
- Currently ten offshore wind projects are under environmental review.
- Expanding renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, and geothermal across public lands
- Continually updating the Western Solar Plan, which are locations well suited for utility-scale solar energy production.
- Working to provide appropriate sites for environmentally sound development
- Maintaining regulatory processes to minimize negative impacts on humans and wildlife
Countries around the world are committed to reducing their reliance on fossil fuels with a combination of transitioning to renewable resources and targeted policies to drive down emissions. Here is a sampling of four countries leading the way on renewable energy.
Sweden is on track to reach 100% renewable energy by 2040 by taking advantage of their natural resources and using a combination of hydropower and bioenergy.
Iceland uses a combination of hydropower and geothermal power, which provides almost 100% of the country’s electricity needs.
Uruguay is generating so much renewable energy from hydropower, complemented by wind, solar, and biofuels, that they’re able to export it to their South American neighbors, Argentina and Brazil.
Morocco is home to the world’s biggest concentrated solar farm, the Noor-Ouarzazate complex in the Sahara desert, and generates enough electricity to power a city twice the size of Marrakech.
When ambitious targets for renewable energy are established by leaders and backed by investments, the positive outcomes are swiftly realized. The shift to renewable energy reduces emissions, fosters a stable economy, generates employment opportunities, and establishes a dependable and robust energy infrastructure.
Realities Shaping the Global Future of Energy
The World Economic Forum identifies eight fundamental realities that will shape the global future of energy.
- Renewable energy sources surpassing traditional fossil fuels.
- Shift towards decentralized and digitalized systems for enhanced control, efficiency, and resilience.
- Electrification of transportation, heating, and industrial processes.
- Hydrogen as a key energy carrier for sectors where direct electrification is challenging.
- Advancement of energy storage technologies for managing intermittent renewable energy supply and grid flexibility.
- Significant investment in energy transition, including clean energy infrastructure, research and development, and supportive policies.
- Inclusivity and addressing social equity in the transition to cleaner energy systems.
- International collaboration for knowledge sharing, technology transfer, and policy coordination.
As governments, organizations, and individuals join forces to embrace clean energy, we can create a more sustainable and resilient future for generations to come. By implementing forward-thinking policies and supporting renewable energy technologies, we can mitigate the impacts of climate change, protect the environment, and ensure a brighter tomorrow for our planet.