One man, one word: on the very first day of his term in office, new US president Joe Biden backed up the promise he gave during the election campaign to lead the USA into a green future by rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. The US economy is to be carbon-neutral by 2050. The EU Commission has committed itself to the same target, while China, the country with the world's highest greenhouse gas emissions, wants to achieve neutrality in 2060. President Biden is also making the case for the nations to move forward hand in hand into an ecologically responsible future. In the first 100 days of his presidency, for instance, he wants to arrange an international climate conference with the major economic powers.
Protecting the environment and stopping climate change are currently at the very top of agendas round the globe. This will certainly not be without a cost for countries: Biden is planning to invest USD 2 trillion in a sustainable economy over the next four years, while the EU's Green Deal, negotiated about a year ago, provides for spending of EUR 1 trillion by 2030. China, too, is stepping up its eco-energy projects and actually leads the world in the expansion of solar and wind energy. According to the UNEP study, the Middle Kingdom accounted for just under 30% of the total USD 282 billion of global investment in 2019. If the target defined in the Paris Climate Agreement – to limit global warming to under two degrees – is to be achieved, however, heads of government will have to roll their sleeves up even higher. Calculations by Morgan Stanley suggest that USD 50 trillion – equivalent to about 58% of global value added – will have to be spent worldwide by 2050 just to convert the energy industry.
The proportion of renewables used for power generation internationally is rising continuously, with green technologies already making up 13.4% in 2019, one percentage point more than the year before. Last year, too, the movement was upwards: it is thought that more than 198 Gigawatt (GW) of renewable capacity was installed, which is a new record. A leap beyond the 200 GW mark is thus expected in the next few years (see graph). From what Fatih Birol, managing director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), says, the trend is continuing on a dynamic path. "In 2025, renewables are set to become the 's largest source of electricity generation, ending coal's five decades at the top of the power mix." By then, the experts reckon, renewable energies are expected to supply a third of the world's electricity.
Sun, wind, biomass, even water – the ways of obtaining clean energy are many and varied. According to the IEA, hydroelectric power is still the greatest source of renewable electricity generation, but its share will fall below 50% for the first time in 2024. On the other hand, combined wind and solar PV generation is set to surge, almost doubling to more than 4,000 TWh in the forecast period. The accelerated expansion of wind and sun is due in part to sinking costs. Expenses for generation in the solar sector are expected to fall another 36%, for instance. In many countries that makes photovoltaic systems the most cost-effective way of building up green power capacities. The IEA predicts that the cost of onshore wind will decline by another 15% between 2020 and 2025.