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To mark the launch of COP27, we hear from RenewableNI Director Steven Agnew.

This week COP27, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, begins in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Last year’s event in Glasgow grabbed a lot of local headlines but so far this year the news has been about U-turns in who it going, or allowed to go.

RenewableNI welcomes the news that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attending and his statement that:

“There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change.  There is no energy security without investing in renewables.  That is why I will attend @COP27P next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.”
@RishiSunak Twitter.

Climate change is a big, global, life-threatening issue.

While the effects have been felt ‘far away’ it has been low priority in the minds of some.  However, the 55,000 excess deaths in Europe during this year’s heatwave should be a reminder that impacts will increasingly be closer to home and are happening now.  Not in some hypothetical future.

The government needs to start reporting on climate deaths and then maybe we’ll see the required urgency.  We need a Covid type response to climate.

COP27 is an opportunity for over 190 counties to come together to build on the agreements made last year in Glasgow.  We should hold our leaders to account when they fall short, and they have fallen short, but we should not undermine the process because there is no alternative.

It was vital that the leader of the UK was among group of over 100 global heads of state to show that while most of the COP26 commitments have not been met, we can only reach agreements at this level by getting together.

The climate emergency must be top of the global agenda.  While we must tackle issues such as the energy crisis simultaneously, we cannot lose sight of the long-term decarbonisation goal.  Renewable energy will bring down both costs and emissions but knee jerk government policies are creating uncertainty and putting at risk future roll out.

I have a long-term record of pushing for change to limit the climate impact.  During my time as an MLA for the Green Party I highlighted the economic benefits renewables could bring by reducing our spend on imported fossil fuels, as well as lowering prices for consumers.  I also raised the issue of energy security, something which may have seemed academic at the time but is a very real concern today.

One of my final acts as MLA was to persuade the Trustees of the NI Assembly Members Pension to begin the process of divestment from fossil fuels.

Now as Director of RenewableNI, I continue to lobby for climate action.

We need to reach a target of 80% renewable electricity by 2030.

Our Achieving Zero report found that:

  • we can achieve 80% using existing and proven technologies in NI;
  • as the level of renewables is increased there is a downward pressure on consumer bills;
  • achieving 80 renewables will cut 75% of power sector carbon emissions compared with today’s levels – from 2.8 million tonnes per annum to 0.7 million.

Clean, green, locally produced electric is a win win for Northern Ireland.  By investing in the renewable electricity industry, we directly benefit the local economy as well as tackling the climate crisis.

More electricity from renewable sources will push down the prices the consumers here are paying.  It means more jobs and greater energy security.

Now that the Prime Minister has recognised the need to invest in renewable energy, we hope this creates policy change at the pace required.

Northern Ireland has perfect conditions for wind turbines and solar panels, backed up by battery storage, to become a zero-carbon electricity system.  RenewableNI believes this should be achieved no later than 2035.

Let’s work together for a better world now and a future we can be proud of creating.

You can watch a free webinar on the Achieving Zero report here.
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