Tree planting is no fix for world on fire

Our annual energy costs analysis highlights the increasing price-competitiveness of wind energy worldwide. Onshore wind is generally cheaper than all other forms of electricity generation, with the exception of gas where it is most accessible, and solar PV in ideal conditions.

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Offshore wind’s costs vary more widely, remaining high in emerging markets but, if the experience of Europe is anything to go by, they are likely to fall rapidly in the coming years.

Improved technology and economies of scale have played their part in driving down wind power’s costs, together with a tough market that has cut turbine prices to around $800/kW.

But the growing confidence of investors has perhaps had the most profound effect. Wind is no longer seen as a risky business, which has been reflected in lower interest rates and insurance premiums.

Regrettably, the largest energy investors of all — the oil and gas giants — have yet to wake up to the economics of wind power, let alone its environmental necessity.

According to a recent report by Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy, for every single dollar Europe’s five biggest oil companies devote to clean and sustainable energy sources, they continue to invest roughly $100 on fossil fuels.

Together these five — Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total, Eni and Equinor — had spent $5.5 billion in total on renewable projects by the end of last year during their entire history.

By contrast, their combined energy investments in 2019 alone was nearly $90 billion.

Ideology failure

Mitigating, never mind reversing, this trend will not be resolved by the planting of trees.

The one trillion tree-planting plan — unveiled at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland last month with all the environmental understanding we have come to associate with Donald Trump — doesn’t even begin to address the climate emergency.

Not for the first time, it has fallen to a teenager to talk truth to power. While Trump poured scorn on the "perennial prophets of doom" and bragged of being a "big believer in the environment", whatever that even means, Greta Thunberg cut through the bluster and bullshit.

"The right, the left, and the centre have all failed. No political ideology or economic structure has managed to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world.

"Because that world, in case you hadn’t noticed, is currently on fire."

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