New path to transition away from fossil fuels marred by lack of finance, loopholes


The recent COP28 commitment signed by world leaders to triple renewable energy capacity by the end of the decade was welcomed by many stakeholders, but it also raises questions about the potential impacts of such a rapid scale-up.

REN21’s Renewable Energy and Sustainability Report (RESR) is timely. Building on a year-long research and consultative process across a wide range of stakeholders, both inside and outside the renewable energy sector, the report demonstrates that renewables are the most sustainable energy source. The report maps and analyses the potential negative impacts that can emerge from scaling up renewables – including on critical issues such as land and water use, biodiversity, forests, human rights, critical materials and waste generation. The RESR concludes that the benefits of renewables largely outweigh their potential negative impacts and that any such negative impacts can be mitigated with the adoption of existing best practices.

For the first time in the renewable energy sector, REN21’s RESR brings together crowd-sourced data and evidence from diverse stakeholders and perspectives such as environmentalists, industry leaders, human rights organisations and others. The RESR’s findings represent a solid shared understanding of how to maximise the benefits of renewables and reduce and/or eliminate their potential negative impacts. The key sustainability principles outlined in the report include, among others, the careful siting of renewable energy infrastructure and the preservation of natural resources, the development of circularity in renewables supply chains, and the involvement of all stakeholders, especially affected communities.

REN21’s RESR also provides numerous examples of good practices, effective regulations, and industry standards and certifications, as well as inspiring initiatives that can be applied or adapted to ensure the sustainable deployment of renewables.

A groundbreaking report in its approach and methodology, REN21’s RESR is the starting point of a dynamic process. It is built around knowledge aggregation and multi-stakeholder dialogues to track the continuous innovation and technological advancements in the renewable energy sector, including evolving policies, regulations and standards.

Rana Adib, Executive Director, REN21, said: “The evidence is clear – there is no room for skepticism and excuses: Renewables are the most sustainable energy source. They help tackle climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. The REN21 Renewable Energy and Sustainability Report outlines how to maximise the benefits of renewables across our economies and communities, while reducing possible negative impacts. Developed using a collaborative and cross-sectoral process, this report should be a guide for all decision makers who have committed to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 and need to ensure societal support to make the energy transition happen.”

Ute Collier, Acting Director Knowledge, Policy and Finance Centre, IRENA: “The RESR provides decision-makers with a recipe for putting sustainability and equity at the heart of the renewables-based energy transition.”

Rachel Asante, Senior Programme Coordinator, International Union for Conservation of Nature: “Governments have an important responsibility to enact and enforce policies and regulations that ensure the deployment of renewables in a sustainable way.”

Caroline Avan, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: “The involvement of all relevant stakeholders in planning processes, and especially those potentially affected by the deployment of new infrastructure, is key to ensure that the benefits of the energy transition are equitable.”

Stephan Singer, Senior Global Specialist, Climate Science and Energy, at Climate Action Network International: “It has been shown that renewables on average have much higher benefits to the environment, climate, social systems, resource consumption, and the economy as such compared to fossil fuels and nuclear power.”

Koaile Monaheng, Expert on Renewable Energy for the Global Platform of Action, Climate Action Network International said: “The vulnerability of the renewable sector to rising interest rates particularly in emerging and developing economies not only hampers the expansion of renewables it also compromises a just energy transition in these countries. Improvements in financing conditions is crucial to ensuring their success.”



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