More renewables = Less Fossil Fuels?

Does using more renewables equate to a reduction in the use of fossil fuels?

In 2010, fossil fuels made up 80% of the global energy mix. In 2020, The world added a record 256 GW of renewables capacity. At the same time, the world is burning more fossil fuels than ever before. As seen in the graph below, the share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is as high as a decade ago and the renewable energy share has only increased slightly (Source: REN21’s Renewable 2021 Global Status Report).

Percentage of fossil fuels and renewables used in 2010 vs 2020
Estimated renewable share of total final energy consumption

Solar and wind drove the growth bringing the total global capacity to 760 GW of solar PV and 743 GW of wind. However, fossil fuels remained the dominant source of energy making up 80.2% of the world's total energy supply, which includes transportation (Source: REN21’s Renewable 2021 Global Status Report).

What happened at the G7 Summit?

G7 leaders agreed on Sunday to raise their contributions to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming, but only two nations offered firm promises of more cash (Source: Reuters)

The G7 leaders promised to phase out coal-fired power generation at home, end funding for new coal-burning power plants in the developing world and tackle carbon-leakage. They agreed to boost climate finance and provide funding to shift to renewable and sustainable technology. Countries failed to adopt clear, whole-of-economy renewable targets with 15 of the world’s 20 biggest economies having no such targets, including Australia. Australia has no formal renewable energy target at all, even for the electricity sector, putting it behind the 165 countries around the world that do have one (Source: World Economic Forum)

Only two G20 countries - Brazil and Canada - derived more than 20% of their total energy consumption from renewables, as seen in the graph below.

countries that derived more than 20% of their total energy consumption from renewables
Renewable energy shares and targets, G20 countries, 2019 and 2020

After the summit concluded, Canada said it would double its climate finance pledge to C$5.3 billion ($4.4 billion) over the next five years and Germany would increase its by 2 billion to 6 billion euros ($7.26 billion) a year by 2025 at the latest (Source: Reuters)

G7 countries account for 20% of global carbon emissions, and it is evident that action has to begin with them.

Catherine Pettengell, director at Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for advocacy organisations, said the G7 had failed to rise to the challenge of agreeing on concrete commitments on climate finance.

Are these pledges enough?

NO! - The IEA (International EnergyAgency) says we need to invest 4 trillion of annual investments into clean energy alone to reach net 0 by 2050.

What is the solution?

Phasing fossil fuels out and making renewables the new norm are the strongest climate action we can take.

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