COP26: Wind industry faces ‘mountain to climb’ to fight global warming

Renewed impetus for climate ambition confirms huge role of wind power in clean energy transition, industry experts believe

The COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland ended on 13 November (pic credit: Justin Goff/UK Government)
The COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland ended on 13 November (pic credit: Justin Goff/UK Government)

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The world’s fight to slow down the warming of our planet and combat the worst effects of climate change will force countries to redouble their efforts to roll out wind power at even greater speed, industry experts said following the two-week COP26 climate summit in Glasgow that ended on 13 November.

While the final text of the agreement watered down a mooted coal phase-out to a less compelling “phase-down”, climate negotiators agreed that “rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation” is now necessary, paving the way for a more urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

“The direction of travel continues to be clear, and I believe that there is such strong momentum now from governments, business, and civil society that it will be increasingly difficult for any parties to delay or obstruct progress in the year ahead,” said Ben Backwell, chief executive of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

In an exclusive interview with Windpower Monthly last month, Backwell underlined the need for the wind industry to “work together with governments, communities and investors to create viable investment frameworks and markets that are built for the energy transition”.

“We need to work very hard on market design,” he added. “It will not happen with business as usual.”

Governments have committed to submitting revised plans on how to cut their countries’ carbon emissions — so-called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — in 2022, ahead of the next round of talks at the COP27 in Egypt.

The “real work on the ground” will continue ahead of that summit, Backwell said in the aftermath of COP26. “The renewable energy sector, with wind at the forefront, has already laid the basis for rapid and cost-effective decarbonisation.”

A recent IEA report confirmed that wind energy will grow exponentially, regardless of the exact agreements reached at COP26 and further such summits, especially against the high cost of nuclear energy and the rising price of natural gas.

‘Mountain to climb’

“It’s clear that we still have a mountain to climb to limit global warming to 1.5C,” said RenewableUK’s chief executive Dan McGrail.

“Over the last fortnight we’ve seen a massive appetite among countries where wind markets are emerging or in their infancy to ramp up their capacity,” he added. 

“The private sector has a key role to play here, driving change by investing billions in renewables.”

McGrail also said that the urgency of scaling up clean power generation was focusing minds on how to implement a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that would not sideline workers and communities.

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