New UN report points to power of renewable energy to mitigate carbon emissions

8 December 2007 – Renewable energy is increasingly being used as a mainstream alternative to the fossil fuels which are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says in a new report.

The REN21 Renewables Global Status Report 2007 says that out of a total global power capacity of 4,300 Gigawatts (GW), renewable energy (without large hydro) now provides about 240 GW of clean power, avoiding some 5 gigatonnes per year (Gt/year) of carbon emissions.

“What's needed now are binding targets in an international agreement to establish polices that can rapidly accelerate the large-scale deployment of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels”, said Mohamed El Ashry, head of the global policy network REN21 that produced the report with the Worldwatch Institute.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which houses the REN21 secretariat, said renewable energy “can make a significant contribution to de-carbonizing the global economy” and called on Governments “to send market signals that will accelerate the use of renewable energy even further.”

He also said States should “reverse the declines in research and development spending so as to accelerate the commercialization of other renewables waiting in the wings.”

The new report follows two earlier Global Status Reports in 2005 and 2006, and shows that renewable energy sources like wind, grid-tied electricity from solar photovoltaic technology and solar hot water systems continue their strong double-digit growth in 2007.

More than 50 countries worldwide have adopted targets for future shares or amounts of renewable energy, including 13 developing countries, all EU countries, and many states or provinces in the United States and Canada. At least 56 countries now have some type of renewable energy promotion policy, and 44 countries, states and provinces have enacted renewable-portfolio-standards requiring future shares of power generation, UNEP said.

The 2007 Renewables Global Status Report concludes that current trends are set to continue as the costs of renewable energy technologies decline and the sector continues to diversify production and technology development to a broad base of countries, including emerging economies.

The report comes as negotiators gather in Bali, Indonesia to frame a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that will expire in 2012.

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