From Abu Dhabi to Davos, climate change tops agenda

CRIB NOTES 18-24 Jan: IRENA summit touts renewable future, Taiwan gets first woman president, global elites head to World Economic Forum

The UN-backed renewables think tank is meeting in Abu Dhabi (Flickr/Fintrvlr)

The UN-backed renewables think tank is meeting in Abu Dhabi (Flickr/Fintrvlr)

By Megan Darby

This weekend, ministers from all over the world are in Abu Dhabi to discuss the role of renewable energy in tackling climate change.

Ahead of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) meeting, the intergovernmental think tank made the macroeconomic case for an ambitious roll-out.

Doubling clean energy’s share of the global mix to 36% by 2030 adds US$1.3 trillion to the economy – equivalent to Mexico’s GDP. But oil exporters like Saudi Arabia and Nigeria could lose out.

Iran is back

Those petropowers are already feeling the pain of low oil prices – a trend that will only be compounded by Iran’s re-entry to the world market.

Tehran can officially ramp up crude sales after Western sanctions were lifted on Saturday, reports the New York Times. It follows the anti-nuclear proliferation deal reached with Washington last summer.

Tsai for Taiwan

Ing-wen Tsai will become Taiwan’s first female president after a landslide election win for her Democratic Progressive Party on Saturday.

Voters punished the Kuomintang government for failing to deliver on its economic promises through closer relations with Beijing.

It likely spells the end for the island state’s nuclear fleet, but could usher in more enthusiasm for energy efficiency and renewables.

Skiing to revolution

The global elite – some 2,900 business leaders, politicians and experts – descends on Swiss ski resort Davos for the World Economic Forum on Wednesday.

The conference theme is “mastering the fourth industrial revolution”. Expect enthusiasm for self-driving cars and nanotechnology, tempered with fears for rising inequality and of course global warming. As we reported last week, 750 experts surveyed by the WEF named climate-related disaster as the top economic concern for 2016.

The gendered term – “mastering” – is about right; just 18% of delegates are women, up from 17% last year. At this rate, we’ll see parity… in 2048, just as your correspondent approaches retirement. First thing on Wednesday, a man panel will discuss the future of energy. Then come the men who piloted a solar plane around the world. Christiana Figueres – UN climate diplomat and all-round bad-ass – was the one female they mustered on the business implications of last month’s Paris deal. If you want to catch some XX chromosomes in Davos, there’s a round-up on the WEF blog.

Methane madness

By the end of this week, a ruptured gas well in Aliso Canyon, California, will have been spewing methane into the air for three months.

More than 2,000 nearby residents have been evacuated due to health concerns, while the climate impact exceeds the annual emissions of 1.5 million cars.

Efforts by SoCal, the company responsible, to plug the well may have worsened the risk of blowout, according to the LA Times.

Inside Climate News reports that state governor Jerry Brown has ordered SoCal to offset the global warming effect by paying for carbon-cutting projects.

Read more on: Breaking News