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How the IPCC report sealed the deal for energy security

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Workers at a 1 MW solar power station run by Tata power on the roof of an electricity company in Delhi, India.

Energy security is seriously important to human societies – not just for resource sufficiency reasons, but also for economic competitiveness, sovereignty of supply and integrity of energy provisioning.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that climate change presents increasing risks and vulnerabilities to energy production and delivery… and that’s why dealing with it is a good deal for energy security.

The risks of a changing climate system are many and economy wide, and their effect over the energy sector is neither absent nor minimal; especially in regards to the level of integrity its infrastructure requires to produce and deliver energy.

The energy sector — particularly the fossil fuel industry, which is primarily responsible for dumping CO2 in the atmosphere — will certainly struggle due to climate change.

With extreme weather events increasing, energy production and processing facilities will likely suffer from more frequent operation interruptions and shutdowns.

Additionally, sea level rise will put transport infrastructure (e.g. oil and gas pipelines and power lines) at risk. Water scarcity (due to increasing rain pattern changes and more frequent droughts) will undermine the effective development of water-intensive energy production methods such as shale gas fracking.

Climate change related impacts ultimately foster the unavailability of robust energy supplies, drive energy imports and energy prices up and enlarge people’s vulnerabilities and energy poverty.

In other words, climate change equals energy insecurity.

The good news is that substantial and sustained reductions in emissions from burning fossil fuels can limit climate change risks as well as energy insecurity.

Based on the IPCC’s most recent findings, we know that decarbonising our energy generation and enlarging countries’ renewable energy supply is a cost-effective mitigation strategy that brings along energy security.

Renewable energy helps avoid the worst impacts of climate change while ensuring a sustainable and reliable energy supply. There are several arguments that justify renewable energy as a mitigation strategy that fosters climate and energy security.

Overall, renewable energy:

  • increases national energy sufficiency and resilience, as it leads countries to major reductions in energy imports while making them less vulnerable to price volatility and supply disruptions;
  • leads to lower fossil energy extraction rates as domestic renewable energy production compensates for fossil fuel energy deficits;
  • increases resilience as it enhances energy supply diversification; and,
  • contributes to drastically expanding energy provisioning to support development and economic growth and achieve sustainable energy-access.

Countries need to be prepared to facing climate change related challenges, and for that they need to strengthen the integrity of their energy supply. That is, to create resilience to manage the risks of a changing climate environment.

Dealing with climate change makes complete sense from an energy security perspective, especially because upscaling the global supply with clean and sustainable energy helps preserving energy resources sufficiency, robustness, sovereignty and resilience.

Tabaré A. Currás is an energy economist for WWF. He is based in Mexico City, Mexico.

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