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WWF - Renewables can make fossil fuels a relic of the past

All of the world’s energy needs could be provided cleanly, sustainably and economically by 2050, according to a major new study by WWF published yesterday. The Energy Report breaks new ground with its global scope and its consideration of total energy needs.

It shows that by 2050, the world’s power, transport, industrial and domestic energy needs could be met overwhelmingly from renewable sources – vastly reducing anxieties over energy security, pollution and not least, catastrophic climate change.

Jim Leape, Director General of WWF said:

“The Energy Report shows that in four decades we can have a world of vibrant economies and societies powered entirely by clean, cheap and renewable energy and with a vastly improved quality of life. We can achieve a cleaner, renewable future, but we must start now.”

The Energy Report calls for a global effort to greatly improve the energy efficiency of our economies. At the same time, a strong drive for renewable power – linked by new, smart grids - can meet a growing proportion of our energy needs, including through electric vehicles and electric heating.

“This report shows that turning the world’s energy supplies green is not only possible, but imperative, said Nick Molho, Head of Energy Policy at WWF-UK. “Renewable energy and better grid interconnection with Europe has the potential to meet all of our energy needs in a very sustainable way. Before pouring billions into creating a new generation of nuclear or gas power stations we need to ask whether that money would be better invested in other, more sustainable energy technologies, especially if these other technologies can create a substantial number of new jobs in the UK.”

The two-part global report contains a detailed analysis and scenario presented by respected energy consultancy Ecofys. Making conservative assumptions about how quickly technology will develop it shows that by 2050, total energy demand will be 15 percent lower than in 2005, despite increases in population, industrial output, freight and travel.

Importantly, a 100% renewable energy future would see CO2 emissions from the world’s energy supply sector reduced by over 80 per cent by 2050 worldwide - providing a high level of confidence that the average global temperature rise will be kept to well below two degrees Celsius, the threshold identified as presenting unacceptable risks of catastrophic climate change.

The Energy Report acknowledges that providing reliable, affordable and clean energy on the scale required will need a global effort – similar to the global response to the world financial crisis. However the benefits will be huge, with global savings amounting to around €4 trillion from lower energy costs alone by 2050.

In the UK a strong policy framework is needed to deliver the substantial upfront investments required and to drive forward ambitious energy savings. WWF wants to see the current reform of the electricity markets deliver a nearly carbon-free power sector and strongly promote sustainable low carbon technologies.

Read the full report (14Mb)

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