As populations and incomes grow, so does the demand for energy. Our thirst for energy services is one of the biggest challenges to mitigating climate change and building a greener future. While the global community wrestles with climate change, it must also grapple with a host of issues resulting from current patterns of energy consumption, including energy security, pollution, and enduring energy poverty. The current fossil fuel-heavy energy system is not only environmentally unsustainable, but also highly inequitable, leaving some 1.4 billion people without access to electricity. Moreover, much of this growing energy demand is occurring in developing countries, where rising fossil fuel prices and resources constraints are putting additional pressure on the environment and the economy.
Fortunately, there is another way. Once considered an “unrealistic” alternative, today renewable energies are a growing presence on the global scene. In 2010, new investments in renewable energies reached a record high of US$ 211 billion, with noticeable growth in emerging economies. While there is much progress to be made, decreasing costs and increasing deployment experience are making renewables more and more competitive with fossil fuels, especially when the latter’s negative externalities, like pollution and health impacts, are taken into account. But in order to move towards a greener energy path, governments and local institutions will need to increase their involvement.
UNEP’s Energy branch focuses on aiding governments and regions—particularly in developing countries—make this green energy transition, offering support and training regarding technical assessments, policies, and finance. For more information, please visit the Energy branch website.