Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

Disentangling the 2030 global renewable energy target


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Renewable energy targets. COP28

Mains level : Global renewable energy transition, regional disparities and equity in responsibility

What’s the news?

  • The 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) of the UNFCCC is scheduled to take place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.

Central idea

  • The upcoming COP28 of the UNFCCC has put forth a bold proposal to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030. This aspiration is echoed in the G-20 declaration, albeit in a less committed manner. While the idea of such a target is appealing, a deeper examination raises significant concerns.

Current State of Renewable Energy Capacity

  • As of 2021, renewable energy sources (RES) accounted for 39% of the global installed capacity for electricity generation, totaling 3026 gigawatts (GW). However, their contribution to total electricity generation stood at only 28%.
  • Among RES, hydropower constituted over half, with solar and wind energy contributing about 36%.
  • To achieve the goal of tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030, we would need to add approximately 6,000 GW of RES capacity, primarily from solar and wind sources.

Regional Disparities

  • Electricity demand growth varies significantly among countries at different stages of development.
  • Developing nations like China and India experience rapid electricity demand growth, with annual consumption rates of 6.6% and 6.3%, respectively, between 2010 and 2019.
  • In contrast, the European Union (EU) saw a decline of 0.3%, and the United States experienced minimal 0.12% growth.
  • Only 21% of electricity in the U.S. is sourced from RES, including hydro and biomass. In the EU, 37% of electricity comes from RES.
  • The U.S. would need only about 26 GW of new RE capacity to meet additional demand. Its share of the global tripling target of 6000 GW by 2030 would be a mere 0.4%.
  • In contrast, India would require about 717 GW of RE capacity, constituting a 12% share of the target.

Challenges in achieving the goal of tripling global renewable energy capacity

  • Timeline for Capacity Addition: Tripling renewable energy (RE) capacity by 2030 presents a significant challenge in terms of the timeline for constructing and operationalizing renewable energy projects.
  • Scale of Electricity Generation: Achieving the target of tripling RE capacity would require generating approximately 13,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity from renewable sources alone.
  • Global Electricity Demand Growth: Global electricity demand has been growing at an average rate of 2.6% (pre-COVID-19 decade average). Meeting the tripling target implies that renewable energy would need to account for 38% of total global electricity production. Sustaining such growth in renewable energy production in line with demand is a complex task.

What are the issues with the global RES target?

  • Lack of Transparency in Origin: The origin of the global RES target proposed at COP28 lacks transparency. It appears to draw inspiration from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), but without clear documentation.
  • Inequitable Regional Distribution: The proposed target, as per the IRENA analysis, suggests that most of the non-RES capacity to be added by 2030 would be in developing regions.
  • Absolute Projections vs. Relative Targets: Absolute projections of installed RES capacity may not align with the growth in energy demand. Relative targets, which are less dependent on demand growth matching expectations, are considered more flexible and robust.
  • Dependency on Non-RES Capacity: Achieving a substantial increase in RES capacity may require corresponding non-RES capacity for grid stability and reliable energy supply.
  • Lack of Viable Storage Options: There is currently a lack of viable storage options at the scale envisioned by ambitious RES targets. Energy storage is essential to ensuring a stable energy supply when renewable sources are not generating electricity.
  • Challenges in Building National Grids: Scaling up RES capacity to such high levels would require extensive national grid development. Finding the necessary resources for these grids is challenging, particularly given the existing difficulties in meeting climate finance targets.
  • Targets for Developed Nations: The most vocal proponents of the global RES target do not have corresponding domestic targets. For instance, while India has committed to ambitious goals internationally, countries like the United States and the European Union lack absolute targets domestically. Their targets are often market signals rather than government-intervened commitments.

Way forward

  • Transparent Origin of Targets: Ensure transparency in the origin and basis of global renewable energy targets, such as those proposed at COP28. Clearly communicate how and why these targets were formulated.
  • Equitable Distribution of Responsibility: Advocate for an equitable sharing of responsibility among nations. Developed countries should commit to absolute domestic targets that align with their global climate commitments.
  • Relative Targets: Consider using relative targets alongside absolute targets. Relative targets are less dependent on specific demand growth projections, providing greater flexibility.
  • Support for Developing Nations: Provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries to help them meet their renewable energy targets. This includes support for grid development, energy storage, and renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Fossil Fuel Phase-Out: Encourage developed nations to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel-based electricity production. This step is vital for reducing carbon emissions and creating space for renewable energy capacity.
  • Investment in Energy Storage: Invest in research, development, and deployment of energy storage solutions at the scale required by ambitious renewable energy targets. Reliable energy storage is essential for grid stability.
  • Climate Finance Commitments: Commit to fulfilling climate finance targets, including the annual $100 billion target, to support climate-related projects across sectors, including renewable energy.
  • Policy Alignment: Align domestic policies with international climate agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. Governments should implement policies that promote renewable energy growth and the phase-out of fossil fuels.


  • As COP28 approaches, developing nations, especially India, should endorse the global tripling of the RES capacity target only if developed nations commit to absolute, equitable, and commensurate targets domestically. Achieving equity in responsibility is crucial to the success of the global renewable energy transition.

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