In the years since the Paris Agreement, emissions have risen from 53 billion tonnes CO2e in 2015 to 55 billion tonnes. Even a severe COVID-driven contraction of the economy has barely changed this trajectory. The world is not on track to avoid dangerous, irreversible climate change. That is a key reality on which we need to act urgently and collectively. But it is not the whole story.
Since Paris, progress on low-carbon solutions and markets has been much faster than many realise. In 2015, low-carbon technologies and business models could rarely compete with incumbent high carbon solutions. Today in 2020, low-carbon solutions are competitive in sectors representing around 25% of emissions. By 2030, these solutions could be competitive in sectors representing 70% of global emissions. (See Exhibit 1.) A stealth revolution is today propelling us towards a zero-carbon, digital future.
The second paragraph sounds promising, but there are a lot of qualifications. One is that the competitive 25% is for power generation, which is more amenable to carbon-free solutions than transportation, agriculture and manufacturing.
In 2015, solar and wind were expensive forms of generation. Today, just five years later, solar/wind are the cheapest form of new generation in countries representing over 70% of GDP.
The source is the New Energy Outlook 2020 which is not free but appears to say that solar/wind are cheaper for "new-build generation" i.e. comparing building a brand new fossil-fuel plant to building a new solar/wind facility.
So if existing fossil fuel plants disappeared, it would be cheaper to start from scratch with solar/wind, but the nonrenewable sources would still have to be built to handle demand variation.