1 Gigaton Coalition Formed in Lima

A coalition recently launched at the climate talks in Lima aims to boost efforts to save billions of dollars and billions of tonnes of CO2 emissions each year by measuring and reporting reductions of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from projects and programmes that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries.

The 1 Gigaton Coalition, initiated by the Government of Norway and coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has been formed in light of the understanding that many countries have a wide range of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and initiatives in place.

However, most do not measure or report the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that result. The Coalition believes that, if measured, these reductions would amount to about one gigaton a year by 2020 – showing the savings that can be made and thus encouraging the uptake of energy efficiency policies and renewable energy technologies.

“Energy efficiency and renewable energy, while growing in use and prominence, are still in many ways an untapped goldmine that can greatly reduce the threat of severe climate change, save money and help meet The Sustainable Energy for All Initiative’s goal of giving everyone on this planet access to clean and modern forms of energy,” said Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

“For example, the International Energy Agency this year reported that our global economy could be $18 trillion better off by 2035 if we adopted energy efficiency as a first choice, while various estimates put the potential from energy efficient improvements anywhere between 2.5 and 6.8 gigatons of carbon per year by 2030,” he said.

“To build the momentum and support required to achieve such savings, the climate and economic benefits of existing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects should be more widely recognized, instead of passing under the radar as they often do now,” he said. “The 1 Gigaton Coalition will play a crucial role in making these contributions visible by measuring emissions reductions and reporting successes, thus building the case for scaling up of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.”

“Current and planned energy efficiency policies harness merely a third of the economically viable energy efficiency potential,” he added. “By scaling up technical assistance, mutual support and collaboration, and putting in place policies that integrate development and climate mitigation, this potential can be fully realized.”

UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2014 found that in order to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, compared to pre-industrial levels, and head off the worst impacts of climate change, global carbon neutrality should be attained by mid-to-late century.

However, the world is not on track to meet this goal. The report found that the gap between emissions levels consistent with meeting the target and levels expected if country pledges are met is likely to be 17 gigatons of CO2 in 2030 based on current trends.

Energy efficiency and renewables can play a key role in closing this gap, and the Coalition aims to increase the evidence base for the benefits and thus encourage nations to put in place policies that enable and encourage renewables and increased energy efficiency.

“The 1 Gigaton Coalition encourages us all to scale up our efforts to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries as a contribution to achieve the 2 degree target,” said Tine Sundtoft, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment.

There is already significant evidence of the potential benefits. For example, a global shift to energy-efficient appliances and equipment – including lighting, air-conditioners, refrigerators, electric motors, ceiling fans and distribution transformers – would reduce electricity consumption by over 10 per cent, save $350 billion annually in bills and reduce CO2 emissions by 1.25 billion tonnes per year.

The evidence points to even greater potential. From 1990 to 2010, improvements in energy efficiency have reduced cumulative global energy demand by over 25 per cent.

Between 2000 and 2013, Germany documented the effects of its implementation of renewable energy, and found the following:

  • By 2012, greenhouse gas emissions had dropped by 148 million tonnes;
  • In 2012 alone, 40 million tons of coal, 12 billion cubic metres of gas and 8 million litres of oil, diesel and gas were saved.
  • In 2011, avoided fossil fuel imports totalled 6.6 billion euros, with the greatest savings in the power sector. By 2012, the fossil fuel cost savings were just over 10 billion euros, with the heating sector surpassing the power sector by one billion euros.

New technologies also open up market opportunities and create new jobs. It is estimated that between 2004 and 2014 employment in the renewables sector doubled, from about three million jobs in 2004 to 6.5 million in 2014.

In 2013, renewables supplied about 19 per cent of the world’s energy consumption, highlighting both progress and the potential for greater financial and economic savings, as well as more jobs.

The 1 Gigaton Coalition is a voluntary international framework, with participation open to both developed and developing countries as well as to intergovernmental organizations, the private sector and civil society. UNEP will coordinate the collection of data, produce an annual report, and together with partners will develop a Measurement, Reporting and Verification methodology that is aligned with the requirements of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This year, governments engaged in the UNFCCC climate talks have looked closely at energy efficiency and renewable energy as two key areas with the greatest potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, when the new, universal climate change agreement slated for Paris 2015 will take effect,” said Cristina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

“We have seen a groundswell of climate action building, including at this year’s UN Climate Summit in New York, which featured many new climate action announcements related to renewable energy and energy efficiency,” she added. “The coalition announced today lends credible confidence to governments as they prepare to submit their contributions to the 2015 Paris agreement and design a crucial, long-term response to the challenge of climate change.”

Press release; Image: UNEP