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OP-ED: Now is the time to speed up the transition to cleaner energy sources

  • Published at 02:26 pm September 22nd, 2020
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Photo: BIGSTOCK

Can Bangladesh aim for a low-carbon future?

We are at a critical moment for the future of our planet. Temperatures are rising, storms are raging, and crops are failing across the world. 

In the 14 months in the run up to the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, being held in Glasgow in November 2021, we must increase climate ambition around the world to protect our planet.

Accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources is a key part of the solution. Currently, despite the rapidly falling cost of renewables so that they are cheaper than coal and gas in most countries, over 50 countries are still planning new coal plants, including Bangladesh. In fact, Bangladesh currently has one of the largest planned pipelines of coal-fired power plants. But plans can change to reflect changing realities. We hope the Power Master Plan Review will take the opportunity to pave the way for a low-carbon future for Bangladesh. 

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global transition to clean power needs to be four to six times faster than at present, according to the IEA and IRENA. Carbon Tracker calculates that coal power retirement needs to increase threefold, with one coal unit closing every day until 2040. 

The UK is bringing countries, development banks, investors, industry, and civil society together to ensure that every country, including Bangladesh, can access the investment and assistance needed to more rapidly scale up renewable energy, and globally, so that we can phase out the use of coal. 

Developing countries often face barriers in expanding their renewable energy capacity, such as high capital costs, difficulty accessing finance, and lack of support with the technical aspects of the transition to clean power.

That’s why, alongside leaders in the politics, finance, and technology of the global power sector, we’ve launched the COP26 Energy Transition Council. The UK COP26 President Alok Sharma will chair the council alongside the co-chair Damilola Ogunbiyi, the UN secretary general’s special representative for sustainable energy. The council will harness multilateral convening power and sector expertise to more rapidly find solutions to drive forward a transition to clean energy in developing countries.

Additionally, the UK is putting £50 million of international climate finance investment into a new Clean Energy Innovation Facility (CEIF). This funding will accelerate innovative clean energy technologies such as energy storage in developing countries.  

Speeding up the move to renewables isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for jobs growth, and energy security too. It reduces reliance on costly and uncertain imports of coal or gas from other countries. Both solar and wind power costs fell by 13% in 2018 -- and soon it will be cheaper in all countries to install new renewable capacity than to continue to run existing coal plants. 

As IRENA has shown earlier this year, boosting investment in renewables would increase jobs in the sector to 42 million globally by 2050, four times more than today. Here in Bangladesh, the UK stands ready to provide technical and financial support to help with the spread of various forms of renewables. 

The arguments for a clean energy transition are clear. By ending the use of polluting coal power and speeding up the move to renewables, we can both reduce emissions and support a green and resilient economic recovery. At this critical turning point for our planet, there is no time to waste. 

Under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is already leading the 54 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum on adaptation to climate change. Through a decisive shift towards renewables, Bangladesh can also serve as an example in mitigation by leading the way in reducing carbon emissions while sustaining economic growth.  

HE Robert Chatterton Dickson is British High Commissioner to Dhaka.  

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