Climate change is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.
Yet luckily we already have the tools, technology and resources required to create a supply of renewable energy capable of powering the world. The planet receives more solar energy in one hour than we use in an entire year; global wind potential alone is sufficient to power the world ten times over. Only a rapid switch to renewable energy can provide enough electricity to power the global economy while aggressively cutting carbon emissions. What's missing, however, is the political will to legislate for the challenges that such a transformation will face. The Climate Parliament concentrates our parliamentary efforts in the following areas to accelerate the global transition to renewable energy.
Power to the People: off-grid renewables & village mini-grids
The benefits of access to electricity are transformational: lighting for schools, functioning health clinics, pumps for water and sanitation, cleaner indoor air, better food storage and more income-generating opportunities, to name but a few. Yet 1.5 billion people around the world have no access to electricity; a billion more have only sporadic access to power. Providing universal access to electricity is a vital step on the road to eradicating global poverty.
Sustainable sources of energy – wind, solar, and small hydro as well as biogas and biomass from waste – are particularly suited to empowering poor communities in the world’s least developed nations. Small-scale renewables are easy to install, require no expensive grid connections, and make use of the excellent renewable resources to be found in the developing world.
Building new electricity highways & large-scale renewable installations
Renewable energy has been portrayed as unreliable, intermittent and incapable of completely meeting current energy demand. It is certainly true that solar and wind power generation varies according to local weather conditions. However, if renewable plants are linked together over a large area, it is possible to create a 100% renewable power supply that is just as reliable and flexible as fossil-fired power.
Supergrids – also known as smart grids and “electricity highways” – can connect regional renewable energy resources on a continental scale, using the latest high-voltage direct current (HVDC) technology to efficiently distribute power and meet fluctuations in supply and demand. They overcome the intermittent nature of renewable energy by integrating different energy sources into the same grid, so that if wind speeds drop in one area, the shortfall can be met by other sources, such as solar power, from elsewhere. And they only lose around 3-5% of power every 1,000km and add barely 1¢ per kWh in distribution costs.
Long distance electricity highways are already being developed around the world. The European Parliament and Commission are currently supporting measures that would help to fund moves towards a European supergrid that would combine solar power from North Africa and Southern Europe, offshore wind from Europe’s northern seas, and large-scale hydropower from Scandinavia and the Alps.
Building political will
Although making the transition to renewable energy will not be easy, parliamentarians are in a unique position to take action. Every law and every budget must be approved by a national Congress or Parliament. Elected legislators are the one group of people in the world who have all the levers they need to solve the climate problem: they vote on laws, taxes and budgets, oversee the operations of government, and have direct access to Ministers, Prime Ministers and Presidents. They can influence national policy, build strong legislative frameworks, direct spending in new directions, and establish stronger targets for action on climate change and renewable energy.
Time is running out: we need legislative action now, on every continent. The Climate Parliament is linking up concerned legislators around the globe. Through national parliamentary groups, international meetings and Internet outreach, we’re pressing for both public and private investment to switch the world’s power supply to renewables - before it is too late. An investment to support our new Europe-North Africa network could be a high-leverage way to help expand the renewable energy industry and show that we really can power the world with clean energy.