At COP26 in Glasgow, world leaders have announced plans to make green technology cheaper and more accessible than highly polluting alternatives. But how far do these announcements go toward making meaningful changes? Will they be enough to help prevent the negative impacts of climate change?
Over 40 world leaders, including those from some of the most highly polluting nations such as the United States, China, and India, have agreed to the terms of a deal known as the Glasgow Breakthrough. Focussed on sectors with high levels of impact on the changing planet such as energy and transport, it’s hoped the agreements will use economies of scale and government funds to make it easier and cheaper to pursue green alternatives.
“By making clean technology the most affordable, accessible, and attractive choice, the default go-to in what are currently the most polluting sectors, we can cut emissions right around the world,” said Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson about the scheme. The Prime Minister announced a 3 billion dollar fund for developing countries to adopt green energy and technology in place of existing solutions. This money is hoped to tip the economic balance in favour of green energy, allowing it to become the go-to alternative for powering the Earth’s homes.
As part of the ‘Glasgow Breakthroughs’, various projects have been announced hoping to catalyse the changes needed for a net-zero economy. The Green Grids Initiative is one of these projects. Hoping to connect locations able to produce sustainable energy, such as sunny deserts for solar and gusty coastlines for wind, with populations across the globe. This international network of energy grids will be able to power both rural and urban populations with sustainable energy. By making the process of transporting clean energy much cheaper, those at COP26 hope to reduce the cost burden of sustainable technology.
The Glasgow Breakthroughs combine policy decisions and research, with investments and expertise in multiple sectors. Using economies of scale, the aim to reduce the cost of renewable energies is likely to be kickstarted by these investments from various governments and philanthropists. Technology like LEDs, solar panels and lithium batteries have reduced in price by 90 per cent over the last decade. The countries gathered at COP26 hope for similar results for new green technology, with these markets eventually taking over.
Some of the commitments from COP26 have come under scrutiny regarding the efforts being made and the potential cost of net-zero. The Glasgow Breakthroughs for example, although historical, only include countries producing 50 per cent of the world’s emissions. Some experts reckon these measures don’t go far enough and relying on market-based solutions to fix problems caused largely by a capitalist economy is likely to be less effective than other more drastic solutions. Activists like Greta Thunberg, echo these sentiments describing the ideas where technologies will appear and erase the climate crisis as a “fantasy”.
Other commentators have argued the estimated 1.4 trillion dollars needed to get to net-zero levels and be spent in total on this kind of technology is too expensive and likely to end up being paid for by those on lower incomes, while higher earners and large companies that pollute avoid the cost. Although this large amount of money for the race to net zero is eye-watering, the cost of doing nothing is far greater. It’s hoped the Glasgow Breakthrough will represent a real change in the future of sustainable energy and technology, allowing a more secure and safe future for the planet and those who inhabit it.