2020, perspectives for low carbon transitions in a pivotal year

As another decade begins, 2020 emerges as a pivotal year. Challenging scientific climate questions for the new decade combine with major global governance issues to be addressed unfailingly in 2020.

The 2010s were the hottest decade on record. Heat waves, extended droughts, devastating fires, sea levels swelling, extreme weather events, glaciers losing ice at accelerating rates, disruption of livelihoods, reflect, inter alia, the dramatic transformation occurred in the biosphere, prompting the notion of a severe climate emergency, and the inevitability of addressing climate change as one of the key and most urgent matters at the global scale.

Will those dire climate change impacts lead to sustainability becoming the new normal in 2020? We are witnessing how in many ways the climate change debate in the international arena has been progressively refocused from being primarily an environmental and social responsibility issue to broadened considerations on the particular dynamics of economic growth, financial stability, investment criteria, job creation and trade and their influence on related policies to arrest the growing climate crisis.

Tackling climate change now requires undertaking urgent and radical long-term carbon transitions and initiate deep decarbonization efforts, while reinforcing climate resilience and alleviating the disruptions created by those changes.

In this regard, it is increasingly noticeable that a heightened reassuring pattern unites firms, investors, financial institutions, cities and other stakeholders that have shown their commitment to a sustainable future, even amidst remaining uncertainties on the process of building up and consolidating the global climate regime.

On the other hand, some governments in different regions of the world have again displayed most recently (i.e., in Madrid 2019) that they have power to hinder the process to institute a governance regime that drives forward long-term transitions and stimulates societal transformations in a context of fairness. Conversely, governments maintain their capacity to contribute to that process but political leadership and willingness to cooperate are essential to that end. Both in developed and developing countries there are examples of unwisdom and missing strategic direction.

COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow, at the end of this year, hence will be crucial to redress insufficient progress and ambition, since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, and to launch the actual transition to net zero carbon emissions.

In this context, a yearly analysis by BloombergNEF examines 10 major trends for 2020 that would influence the evolution of low-carbon transition in key fields such as energy, transport, commodities as well as in sustainability, that are, in any case, to be taken with caution as the authors recommend.

BNEF’s 10 Predictions for 2020, include the following:
 once again, a rise in world renewables capacity investment;
 a record year of wind installations in 2020, in particular in onshore capacity;
 the global solar market to grow considerably again this year;
 expansion of renewable-plus-storage projects, due to diminishing energy storage costs in conjunction with the widening of renewable energy in major markets, fostering co-location;
 increased world sales of electric vehicles and confirmation that internal combustion passenger vehicles have likely passed their peak;
 continued but diminishing oversupply of liquified natural gas;
 large oil producers gradually reinforcing their processes to establish emission reduction targets;
 significant increase in the number of companies that have set science-based decarbonization targets that contribute to reduce climate transition risk; and
 Continued progress and expansion of efforts towards circular economy.

Clearly the world economy is not fully on track to avoid daunting climate change impacts; however, some of these trends, if realized, might contribute to set the path for a modest but significant decline in energy-related greenhouse gas emissions that would definitely point towards peaking emissions.

Source: BloombergNEF (2020). Energy, Vehicles, Sustainability – 10 Predictions for 2020. January 16, 2020.

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