Paper, Online Tools Track Mitigation Efforts and Renewable Energy Potential
UN Photo/R Marklin
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The LEDS GP launched a tool to help identify renewable energy potential in developing countries and plan effective projects.

A paper in Science proposes a "carbon law," halving carbon dioxide emissions every decade, as a measure of mitigation progress.

The Boom and Bust report and Global Coal Tracker show a 48% decline in planned coal power stations.

24 March 2017: The past few weeks have seen the release of a paper and online tools aimed at tracking mitigation efforts and monitoring existing and potential energy sources.

A resource by the Low Emissions Development Strategy Global Partnership (LEDS GP) can help realize cost-effective renewable energy projects in developing countries based on geospatial data, while the Global Coal Plant Tracker shows current coal plants. A paper published in ‘Science’ offers a radical heuristic to track mitigation efforts. The SDG Knowledge Hub brings you news on these developments, which contribute to tracking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 13 (climate action).

The LEDS GP launched the RE Explorer portal, a hub for renewable energy data, analytical tools and technical assistance. The portal seeks to empower developers and policy makers to realize ambitious and cost-effective energy outcomes through the provision of information on renewable energy resources and other geographic information system (GIS) data sets, in line with SDG 7.2 (By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix).

The heart of the RE Explorer portal is the RE Data Explorer, a geospatial analysis tool for renewable energy development. With the Explorer, users can identify the potential of various renewable energy sources in a given area, and access data on available infrastructure, environmental barriers, population densities and weather data in order to analyze the feasibility of projects. Data is currently available for 11 countries and the Lower Mekong Region. [LEDS GP Press Release] [RE Explorer Portal]

Increasing renewable energy capacity and decreasing fossil fuel-powered stations are two sides of the same coin. The Boom and Bust 2017 report and its accompanying tracker detail a 48% decline in planned coal power stations and a 62% decline in construction starts in 2016. The report largely attributes this steep falls for coal power to actions by the Governments of India and China to slow down coal use in favor of renewable energy.

The Global Coal Plant Tracker provides a visual interface for users to explore existing coal plants of 30 MW or larger. The tracker was designed and produced by CoalSwarm, a network of researchers developing collaborative informational resources on coal impacts and alternatives. [Boom and Bust 2017 Report] [Global Coal Plant Tracker]

In ‘Science,’ the paper, titled ‘A roadmap for rapid decarbonization,’ is based on the recognition that although the Paris Agreement’s goals are aligned with science and can, in principle, be technically and economically achieved, “alarming inconsistencies remain between science-based targets and national commitments.” The authors argue that long-term goals “can be trumped by political short-termism.”

The heuristic of the carbon law could, with what the authors term “immediately instigated” carbon removal, put the world on a path to net-zero emissions around mid-century.

Like “Moore’s law” in the computer industry, which holds that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles every year since their invention, the carbon law seeks to capture the effects of transformative change and its associated dynamics, namely disruption, innovation and non-linear change. Such dynamics are often overlooked by models, which form the foundations of the mid-century decarbonization plans put forward under the Paris Agreement.

The heuristic of the carbon law could, with what the authors term “immediately instigated” carbon removal, put the world on a path to net-zero emissions around mid-century – a necessary achievement to meet the 2°C limit for temperature increase put forward in the Paris Agreement, and realize the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (climate action). [Science Magazine]

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