COP28: Renewed promise for renewables and an opportunity for off-grid solar

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This blog was published on 20th December 2023.

Did COP28 go well? Well, it depends a bit on the perspective. The setting for this year’s COP was a bit different from other years. It was the first time in which a Global Stocktake measured the world’s objective progress towards keeping the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to under 2ºC and ideally 1,5ºC. Unfortunately, we’re still falling short of meeting that goal; however, this fact clarified that the time for incremental change has passed, and it’s now time for acceleration and action.

The final agreement of COP28 sent a powerful signal that the world needs to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner” by 2050. Language here was important and a point of contention until the very last minute. Other hopeful outcomes include the new, specific target to triple renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030 endorsed by 132 countries.

According to IEA, to achieve this target to triple renewables, the investment into the sector needs to more than double to over $1.2 trillion annually by 2030. It will also require increased public investment, addressing the high cost of capital in developing countries and a more distribution in global investments into renewable energy: an IRENA report points out that Africa has received just 2% of the investment over the last two decades. As part of the renewables industry, the increased target is good news for off-grid solar, but we need to advocate for the funds to reach the places and people who need it most, and ensure the energy transition is just and equitable.

We were encouraged by increased climate finance announcements like the $13 billion secured by the Green Climate Fund or Acumen’s Hardest-to-Reach $250 million Initiative and see a path forward to unlock the $100 billion climate finance opportunity for the off-grid solar sector.

The implementation of the transition to renewables differs greatly by country. In richer, traditionally polluting countries, it means delivering a fossil fuel phaseout that doesn’t negatively impact society; whereas, in poorer countries where a high percentage of the population doesn’t even have energy access, it means leapfrogging polluting technologies in favour of clean ones and enabling vulnerable populations who will unfairly suffer the worst consequences of climate change, to adapt to their changing conditions. Here is where adaptation plus loss and damage funds become essential.

$188 million have been pledged so far to the Adaptation Fund to help those most in need strengthen their climate resilience and adapt to the changing climate. This falls short of the target of $300 million that was supposed to be achieved 3 years ago, and even shorter of the billions that will be required by whole communities facing existential threats. The loss and damage fund approved at COP27 has received over $700 million in pledges, but billions will be needed to compensate for the irreversible losses developing countries face from global warming every year…

Making the case for energy access and off-grid solar

GOGLA joined the conference to ensure that a just energy transition for all was on the agenda, and to profile the crucial role of off-grid solar to enable adaptation and resilience. GOGLA was represented by Patrick Tonui, Head of Policy and Regional Strategy, Drew Corbyn, Head of Performance and Investment, Eva Roig, Media and Campaigns Manager, and Sarah Bieber, GOGLA Board Member.

The team participated in multiple panels with partners like SEforAll, World Bank, ENERGIA, WHO, WWF, Africa Development Bank, SNV, IKEA Foundation, different Ministries, IRENA, UNCTAD, REA, among others. Key issues discussed included:

  • De-risking distributed renewable energy to urgently ramp up climate finance,
  • The crucial role of decentralized solar technologies to power adaptation and climate justice,
  • The integration of renewable energy along the food production value chain,
  • The use of off-grid solutions to enable sustainable development in the agricultural sector, and
  • The Power 1 Billion Lives energy compact.

We built new connections with stakeholders across governments, climate funds, development partners, investment firms, banks, nonprofits, and other industry associations, expanding our reach and presence, and reinforcing the positioning of our sector moving forward.

Yet while those we spoke to recognised the potential of off-grid solar to contribute to universal energy access and to climate adaptation, mitigation and justice, the crucial role of the off-grid solar is not more widely understood. There is much more to be done to ensure that the sector’s potential to reach the poorest and most climate-vulnerable communities, and to drive green growth and productivity, are not overlooked.

As we move into 2024, expect us to double down on our advocacy efforts for the off-grid industry, as we showcase it in integrated energy planning, continue highlighting its climate impacts, profile its uses in agriculture and business, while also confirming it is the quickest and most affordable solution for a very large percentage of the currently unelectrified.

We want to make sure the sector takes advantage of the increased push for renewables in the energy transition and we will seek enhanced collaborations with other actors within the energy access space to present a strong, united voice that helps us maximize our impact and potential.

Join us as we strengthen our voice within a sustainable, affordable and inclusive energy transition, and don’t hesitate to reach out with your ideas for collaboration!

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