The health, humanitarian, social and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented, and have had far-reaching consequences across the globe. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is urging governments to take advantage of the progress made in renewable energies to meet the challenge of economic recovery — so as not to lose sight of the fight against climate change and commitments to sustainability. Renewable energies will power the post-COVID-19 world, as combating both climate change and the pandemic requires a shared roadmap.
What does the future have in store? Economic crisis and a green recovery
The gravest and most important figures arising from this pandemic are, without a doubt, the number of human lives lost. However, we cannot lose sight of its catastrophic economic consequences. And the COVID-19 crisis is not going to be cheap. The IMF's World Economic Outlook paints a bleak picture: The world economy is poised to contract by 4.9 %, a much worse recession than the 2008 crisis.
There are many vocal proponents of focusing on a green recovery to rebuild the economy. The loudest of these voices are coming from Europe, where the European Union has made a clear commitment to the green agenda. Its ambitious green recovery package will inject resources into a clean recovery on a scale never seen before, with the creation of one million green jobs and the impetus for a green transition.
Emerging from the economic crisis thanks to the power of renewable energies
The global economy is taking a beating following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite all the chaos, we can still see some glimmers of hope in the future and in renewable energies. A sustainable future where governments and businesses work together to tackle both the climate crisis and the economic crisis.
The energy transition can promote far-reaching socio-economic development while paving the way for achieving the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement and managing to curb the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C.
Supporting renewable energies instead of fossil fuels promises to create more jobs and bring greater economic growth, cleaner living conditions and significantly improved well-being. Not forgetting that we would be able to cut 70 % of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050.
There will be a return on every dollar invested
Renewable energies are a safe bet. IRENA estimates that every US dollar (USD) invested will yield a return of between three and eight dollars. In addition to a future of sustainable energy, the transition promises to bring new models of socio-economic development. Jobs in the renewable sector will quadruple by 2050 — reaching 42 million globally. Not to mention that there would be health and environmental benefits, as well as major improvements in human well-being, in all regions of the world. IRENA estimates that the well-being indicator would be 13.5 % higher in 2050.
The role of governments
What should governments do to facilitate the energy transition and accelerate economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Expand policies that promote renewable energy solutions. Governments must continue to implement appropriate policy frameworks and markets that support the development of renewable energy.
- Prioritise renewable energies in any stimulus measures and commit to phasing out support for fossil fuels.
- Provide market mechanisms to safeguard industry and encourage private investment in renewable energies.
- Increase the role of renewable energies in industrial policies.
- Promote a fair transition and support workers in the shift to renewable energy jobs.
- Strengthen international cooperation and action to accelerate the transition.
Renewable energy must play a key role in the economic recovery, ensuring sustainability and energy security, creating jobs, and building resilience to protect people's health and well-being. No other industry can achieve these goals while reducing global emissions.