2012 has been a blast for the low-carbon economy.
This year was marked increasingly by nations that committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, recognizing that there is no other way to tackle climate change and to seize a sustainable future but to go “green” in terms of energy sources.
While most of the countries across the world made significant efforts toward decarbonization, there are those that really caught everyone’s attention because of the big and radical steps they took to uphold green growth.
EcoSeed took a closer look at the low-carbon developments in 2012 and identified “representations of success” in both the developed and developing worlds.
The European Union is probably the most aggressive nation when it comes to ensuring that it will reach its low-carbon goal by 2020.
Just before the year ended, a new report from the EurObserv’ER Barometer program showed that E.U. is well on its way to meet its 20 percent renewable energy target over the next eight years.
To date, the share of renewables in the gross final energy consumption of the region rose from 12.5 percent in 2010 to 13.4 in 2011, an increase of 0.9 percent.
This year, the E.U. achieved a 100-gigawatt mark in wind energy generating capacity, which is equivalent to the power production of 39 nuclear power plants, according to the European Wind Energy Association. Meanwhile, the region has also become the “world leader in solar deployment” owning two-thirds of new solar installations across the world, said in a report of the European Commission’s Joint Research Center.
Furthering its efforts to slash carbon emissions, the E.U. also announced its plans to start measuring and monitoring emissions from the shipping industry in 2013. The European Commission said that global emissions from the sector amount to 900 million tons annually, which is expected to double by 2050, if no urgent actions are taken. Given that there is no international regulation of emissions from ships, the E.U. is the first to tackle the issue.
Meanwhile, funding is crucial when it comes to advancing clean technologies, and the E.U. has been generous enough in 2012 to promising “green” projects.
In the area of “smart technologies” for cities, the E.U. approved 365 million euros ($449 million) to fund energy, transport and communications research that will address common problems like congestion and energy waste.
Similarly, it awarded over 1.2 billion euro ($1.59 billion) in grants in December to 23 “highly innovative” renewable energy demonstration projects. The fund, which is taken from revenues obtained from the sale of 200 million emissions allowances from new participants’ reserve of the E.U. cap and trade scheme, will support projects in a wide range of renewable energy technologies – bioenergy, concentrated solar power, geothermal power, wind, ocean energy and smart grids.
With all of the intensive efforts that E.U. is currently taking and with some more future plans, it is most likely to fulfill its low-carbon commitment.
“The European countries are set to lead the development of renewable energy technologies, said Daniel Yergin,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning energy analyst.
Among the European member countries that notably contribute to the green growth of the region are Sweden, Latvia, Finland, Austria and Portugal, which are all on track of meeting their national renewable energy targets for their territories.
India, among the developing nations, has perhaps the most remarkable green growth in 2012 based on the number and intensity of actions it undertook towards a low-carbon economy.
The news of the two-day massive power outage that the country experienced last July 30 to 31, affecting over 620 million people across 22 states, was overshadowed by its incessant efforts to refurbish its energy infrastructure and ensure a sustainable supply of power.
For the record, India has crossed the 1-gigawatt mark for its solar photovoltaic installations, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Missionwhich aims to add 20 gigawatts of solar power by 2011.
Phase I of the mission from 2010 to 2013 aimed to generate 1.1 gigawatts of solar power. Under Phase I, India’s solar energy market saw an increase from 17.8 megawatts in 2010 to 1,044 megawatts cumulated installed capacity as of August 31, 2012.
Following the 1-gigawatt solar milestone, the government unveiled Phase II of the solar mission, where about 10 gigawatts grid-connected solar power are targeted for India.
Meanwhile, in a bid to slash emissions from its land transportation sector, India in 2012 has affirmed plans to boost electric vehicles across the country over the next eight years. In August, the Indian Central ministers earmarked a 225 billion rupees ($4.1 billion) worth of investment to bolster of hybrid and pure electric vehicles in India, with a goal of deploying up to 6 million green vehicles by 2020.
In terms of green buildings, India also has ambitions to become one of the global leaders by 2015. It has been making intensive efforts in greening buildings across the country, ranging from residential projects, factory buildings and LEED-certified buildings in India.
The Indian Green Building Scorecard shows that this year, India has already certified 307 sustainable buildings including some hotels, shopping centers, office spaces and state infrastructure such as the Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3. These account for 1.34 billion square feet of green building footprint.
While most low-carbon measures for buildings usually focused on large structures, India recognized the fact that small buildings altogether could also account for big amount of carbon emissions, spearheading a new green rating scheme that encourage small buildings with less than 2,500 square meters to manage and reduce their environmental impacts. In September, the Small Versatile Affordable rating system, a first-of-its-kind, was launched by the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment.
Transition to low-carbon economy is a challenge for developing countries, given their limited capacity to invest in costly renewable energy projects and their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. However, India this year has proven that these barriers could be overcome.
“India has the potential to significantly increase its energy security to support continued rapid growth, while securing sustainability that exceeds current expectations,” said consulting firm McKinsey and Company in a report.
Over the coming years, India’s pathway to a low-carbon economy is something to watch out for by many countries across the world.