Global Renewables Congress‘ Parliamentary Meeting | 22nd April 2021 | Meeting Report
On Thursday, 22nd April 2021, the Global Renewables Congress (GRC) held its first Parliamentary Meeting in 2021. This policy dialogue “Making Change Happen: Boosting Parliamentary Action on Renewables” took place virtually. Members of Parliaments from around the world were invited to share their personal experiences and insights on how the role of renewables can be strengthened for an inclusive, green future post-COVID19.
The climate crisis has massive impacts on all of us – all countries, people, and continents – emphasised Bärbel Höhn, Chair of the Global Renewables Congress in her opening statement. People, and in particular poor, disenfranchised and marginalised people are suffering around the world and yet, the Polluter Pays Principle has not been appropriately recognised, leaving many suffering from the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. We are already at risk of missing the 1.5°C target, stipulated in the Paris Agreement if we do not act now. The energy sector, as the largest contributor to global climate change, needs to be addressed first if we are to mitigate the dangerous impacts of the climate crisis. Energy for industry, heating, cooling and transport is still mainly based on burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. To mitigate climate change, a transformation of the energy system towards renewable energy is urgently needed. Doing so can unleash the full transformative power of renewables.
At the same time, renewables play a crucial role in building back stronger and greener after the COVID19 crisis we are currently facing. Legislators play a key role in securing momentum for swift societal and sector-wide economic and environmental recovery policies, based on renewables. Yet, debates about the potential role of renewables in COVID19 recovery packages, are scarce, as many countries continue to struggle with a rising number of infections. Further, recovery packages are often still focusing on short-term recovery, rather than longer-term revitalisation. Additionally, in some countries, energy is not part of the recovery debate and considered a separate issue altogether. Nevertheless, by combining efforts on climate change mitigation and Corona recovery, countries have the unprecedented opportunity to advance on the solution of both crises with similar measures and joint force. Against this backdrop of the current twin-crises of climate change and COVID 19, the parliamentary meeting facilitated interactive discussions amongst legislators and energy experts.
Participants discussed the potential opportunities and obstacles of a just transition towards a renewable energy-based energy system. Among the actions considered, participants identified the following as particularly important: to create green jobs and re-skill employees in the fossil fuel sector, to monitor and even limit ministerial lobbying of economic cooperation in the energy sector and to increase interaction with rural authorities. The latter is particularly relevant to achieve 100% stable, clean energy access even in the most remote areas. The involvement of local stakeholders through energy cooperatives – people and communities owning renewable energy installations and at the same time producing and consuming the energy generated – could greatly benefit less well-connected areas, create attractive jobs, create local value and increase prosperity. By combining energy generation with agricultural processes, ecological and agroecological farming practices can be strengthened while improving production. In many areas throughout the African continent, this could lead to great livelihood improvements for the rural population and create job perspectives for young people living in these areas. Maximising the socio-economic benefits of renewables and unleashing their full transformative power, requires a careful analysis of the social, political, economic, and environmental conditions of each country and jurisdiction as well as policies based on science and data to decide on the optimal pathway.
Renewable energy technologies provide the means to successfully phase-out of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), to avoid the supposed necessity of so-called “bridging technologies” like natural gas, for some countries to even leapfrog the age of fossil energy generation and to avoid dependencies and the devastating consequences of nuclear energy production. To realise a renewable energy-based system, parliaments have to create enabling frameworks for regulations and legislations to safeguard investments of all scales. Legislators need to be able to make informed decisions and thus need to be aware of the social and economic potentials of renewables and best practice examples showcasing the role of taxation, legislation, incentives and laws for the implementation of a green and sustainable energy system. Misconceptions about renewables will need to be overcome. Studies and renewable energy scenarios have shown that old and false notions of renewables being unreliable, not covering the base-load of the electricity grid or being too expensive, are invalid. Renewable energy installations have great potential in terms of decentralisation and electrification of remote areas through mini-grids, job creation as well as empowerment of women. By promoting good examples, socio-economic benefits and projects as well as sharing of experiences, the misconceptions can be erased and awareness and acceptance for renewables be raised.
Parliamentarians play a crucial role in all these aspects of the energy transition. By simultaneously promoting exchange among legislators of different countries and committees and distilling success stories and best practices, legislators are able to wield the tools necessary to scale up renewable energy deployment and create a green, just and equitable future. To do so, parliamentarians of all parties and all parliamentary committees need to be involved in discussions on parliamentary action for renewables to promote a green COVDI19 recovery and counteract climate change. Renewable energy has great potential for the realisation of sustainable development. Strengthening political will and commitment within parliamentary committees can create non-partisan action for renewables and a green economy. Many issues of a clean energy transition, cross-party and cross-committee action, as well as COVID19 recovery efforts, were discussed in this engaging and interactive event. Some open questions remained, however, and need to be followed up upon.
Legislators have the mandate to act on climate change: the Paris Agreement. It is the time to act and act now, to improve ambition and close the gaps in knowledge, capacity and ambition by creating a coalition and solve the crisis cooperatively. By connecting and engaging legislator the network of the GRC provides a platform for the exchange of best practices, knowledge and peer-learning to advance on a clean energy transition through the deployment of renewable energy.
 For more information, see the GRC series of analyses on the Role of Renewables in COVID19 Recovery Packages, 2020, https://www.renewablescongress.org/covid-19-recovery/