SHARM EL-SHEIKH – “The atmosphere of this COP is overall positive, also with regard to renewable energy sources. But the situation is what it is”, he warns Francesco La CameraDirector of Irena (International Renewable Energy Agency). “In our report on the climate commitments made by individual governments it is clear that the renewable targets by 2030 are half of what is necessary. We should triple the investments in wind and photovoltaics”.
“Warming of 1.5 degrees could soon fade as a target and 2 degrees will also be at risk.”
So why do you define the atmosphere of this Cop27 as positive?
“From the ongoing negotiations it emerges that a path is beginning to be defined that in the years to come will lead the Cops to focus less on negotiations and words and much more on concrete actions, on what good is being done, on building new partnership. Already here in Sharm el-Sheikh, for example, there has been greater attention to the role of businesses “.
What is needed to bridge the gap in the renewables sector?
“The first thing to do is to rethink international cooperation. We, like Irena, are here at COP27 precisely to strongly affirm this principle”.
What does cooperation with renewable sources have to do with it?
“The main limitation we have today for an even more rapid expansion of renewables is to equip the regions most at risk, therefore Africa and Southeast Asia, with the necessary infrastructures to ensure that the grids allow the reception of renewables to be interconnected, flexible and balanced. In short, where to put the current produced by photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. But in addition to the physical infrastructures, in those countries, institutional and regulatory ones must also be built. .
In all this what would be the role of Irena?
“Our idea is that physical infrastructure should be the task of the large multilateral banks. Then at the level of bilateral and regional cooperation, our Agency can help build the other two pillars: the institutional and the regulatory one”.
Among the positive signs of this COP, you also include greater attention to businesses.
“Yes, the other reason why Irena is here is to launch new public-private partnerships. For example, we have launched the Alliance for industrial decarbonization: 28 large international companies have already joined, including Eni and Enel. to bring the first results to COP28. And we also presented the Global offshore wind alliance, with the aim of bringing together governments, the private sector, international organizations and other interested parties, to accelerate the spread of offshore wind energy “.
All this while in reality many countries, including Italy, are rushing to buy gas and build new infrastructures for its extraction and exploitation. Isn’t that a contradiction?
“I will not go into the merits of the decisions of individual governments. There is of course the need to make up for the lack of Russian gas and this is done by looking for alternative suppliers. But no one is making long-term investments, because they risk becoming stranded asset, ‘stranded assets’. In the short term, someone will reopen the coal plants, those who have the fields will extract more, but we do not see this long-term investment race. Investing in fossil fuels today would mean repeating the mistakes already made. These are systems that require twenty years to be amortized, while they will become stranded asset much earlier”.
So is a return to the fossil only temporary?
“Let’s say that at this moment there are two opposing forces: on the one hand the need to make up for the lack of Russian supplies, on the other the great economic convenience of renewable energy compared to gas. In the long run wind and photovoltaic will certainly prevail. there is no one left who is not convinced, also because renewables guarantee true energy security “.
And what do you answer to those who say that instead, if today we depend on Russian gas, tomorrow we will depend on Chinese photovoltaic panels?
“Which is not true. In Africa there are rare earths and panels can be built as in China, indeed at lower costs. But to do so, investments are needed. And so we return to cooperation that must change …”.
So are you optimistic?
“I am sure that the future is of renewables, the doubts are about how long it will take and if we will be able to avoid the worst: we have seen what happened in Pakistan with just 1.2 degrees higher. In the past, energy infrastructures have been built gradually. Today, however, a great mobilization is needed, because we no longer have time available “.