Shifting our energy sources from coal and oil to renewable energy is the most immediate, large-scale available solution to climate change, next to energy efficiency and conservation.
WWF worked with an expert energy consultancy (Ecofys) in detail over the past two years, to find out just how the world could do this. The result was The Energy Report, which you can download here [PDF]. The first outcome of the research was that – yes – it is possible to do this. The second outcome was that we can do this without relying on new technologies.
Half of this shift will be made through energy conservation and efficiency, and half through shifting to renewable energy. It’s not easy to visualize how this would actually be possible – it is, after all, an ambitious transition. But consider this:
If 0.3 percent of the Sahara desert was a concentrated solar plant, it would power all of Europe.
If we could harness 0.1 percent of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people.
Here in Canada, we are lucky to be getting so much of our energy from hydroelectricity. But we still largely depend on coal for energy and oil for fuel. And while we haven’t yet run out of coal, oil, gas, we certainly have run out of time in the face of human-caused climate change. The risks we run of continuing with business as usual is losing a third of land species to extinction.
Achieving this transition in Canada requires investment in conservation and efficiency; transition to renewable, sustainable energy; and reform for transportation and urban design. Canada is well placed to make these changes with its abundant renewable energy potential and being one of the most urbanized countries in the world. “To protect the future of our planet, these are the steps we need to take,” as our President and CEO Gerald Butts put it.
As we get ready for our Earth Hour campaign, we will be profiling provinces across Canada to show which ones have made the move to renewable energy and which ones still need our love and support to get there. We’ll also profile what the Canadian government has done, and what they still need to decide on.
The good news? Canada is incredibly well-placed to lead on renewable energy. Our country has the choice to make clean, renewable energy a priority. It’s time to begin a dialogue that will move us forward. As our Director of Climate & Energy, Josh Laughren said, “I hope this changes the discussion away from what can’t be done to what can.”
Ten recommendations for a 100 percent renewable energy future:
- Clean Energy: promote most efficient products. Develop renewable energy to provide clean energy for all by 2050.
- Grids: Share and exchange clean energy through well designed electricity grids.
- Access: Energy for all people, and make it clean energy. Empower developing countries to lead.
- Money: Invest in renewable, clean energy, and efficient products and buildings (Will save $5.5 trillion / yr by 2050).
- Food: Stop food waste. Choose sustainably sourced food. Free up land for nature. Word to the wealthy: lay off meat.
- Materials: Reduce, re-use, recycle. Stop waste. Save energy. Develop durable materials. Avoid things we don’t need.
- Transport: Public transit incentives. Cut shipping distance. Electric cars. Develop alternative ship and plane fuels.
- Technology: Action plans for developing energy efficiency and renewable energy (national, bilateral and multilateral).
- Sustainability: Strict sustainability criteria to ensure renewable energy is in line with environmental goals.
- Agreements: Ambitious climate and energy treaty to direct global path on renewable energy and efficiency efforts.