The international renewable energy landscape is dynamic, competitive, and often a provocative and polarizing plotline. Dynamics are such that our world has experienced a lift in technological advancements that allow us to understand the need for renewables in a clearer way. The international competition has heated up so much so that countries like India and Bangladesh are leading the way in utilizing photovoltaic technology, while the U.S. is playing catch-up with the rest of the world. The impending planetary conditions rest on the shoulders of international leaders who are not acting to protect it has led to a certain level of provocation that pulls in a broad spectrum of Monday Morning Quarterbacks, consisting of politicos, NGOs and celebrities.
The battle over the future of the planet and its interrelationship to the international renewable energy landscape strikes a familiar chord in another compelling and timely happening -- football season.
Whether it is under the Friday night lights your local high school football stadium or beneath the breath-taking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains at Sports Authority Field, football season is here and capturing our attention in yet another record-breaking way (Check out this year's NFL draft viewership). Not only does the gridiron magnetize folks from all walks of life, it also provides us an analogous backdrop for the "final two minutes" of a showdown where the U.S. is trailing in a hefty, yet surmountable way.
Many agree that we are in 4th quarter discussions relating to our global need to transition away from fossil fuel energy and focus on renewable sources. Recently, Germany has built on strong momentum as early adopters in the "1st half." Now the Germans are heading into the 4th quarter with a respectable lead over the U.S. Germany has taken a strong step as the international powerhouse with its investment and commitment toward renewable energy (read this great piece from Justin Gillis). The Germans are staging an energy revolution, which is unprecedented in many ways -- it takes a certain level of economic discipline to maintain a first world economy with an unparalleled 30 percent of energy being generated by renewable sources.
A major domestic hurdle is the entrenchment of the fossil fuel industry and its ties to government. Government subsidies make for a formidable defense to what is hoped to be a momentum shift in renewable energy sources for the U.S. As the world GDP leader in 2013, we have a real opportunity to leverage our bustling economy for a more sustainable and attractive future that has alternative energy sources on the front line.
As is often the case on football teams, key players are injured and their backups are heavily relied upon to cover the workload and establish some momentum. The U.S. has seen many examples of this in the renewable energy space. Energy production from solar photovoltaic cells and wind turbines has provided the U.S. with a much needed and refreshing take on renewables. With consumer costs declining and alternative energy sources becoming more and more attractive as the supply increases, outlets such as community shared Solar Gardens and NGO-solar company partnerships (like the one my organization has with Solar City) become cost effective opportunities to change your home energy supplier...yet another reason why the U.S. is inching back late in the game.
Let's not forget about the rookies who are getting an opportunity to make a huge impact late in the game - Millennials. These young folks are taking on climate change as a serious issue that needs to be addressed (have you seen the brilliant "Why Not?" campaign by The Climate Reality Project?). Our rookies are stepping up, and with the help of Gen X, Y and Boomers, we are making serious strides on the road to Paris 2015.
Efforts on a micro level represent how the U.S. has clawed their way back into contention. Just as a big defensive play can lead to an offensive spark between the hash marks, small scale efforts can lead to larger overall progress and closer to evening the score. Take a look at what costs of alternative energy are doing to level the playing field.
Although the topic of the U.S. vs. Germany, an international renewable energy powerhouse, may make for an enjoyable aesthetic backdrop, we should focus on the topic of renewable energy sources more as a Humanity vs. Time issue. By creating several internationally recognized alliances and coalitions, humanity has been able to get momentum. While research may suggest an inevitable rise in temperature, sea levels and natural disasters, international coalitions and alliances designed to address climate change may send us into overtime as we approach the "Two-Minute Warming."
A lot of climate scientists, researchers and activists see the Paris 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change as our last chance to turn momentum and change the landscape for humanity. Once the Paris 2015 UN Climate Summit has wrapped up, our playbook to win the game for humanity will be revealed, the outcome of which will determine the future of our planet.
This past fall's UN Climate Summit in NYC arranged by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was really a scrimmage for the big game - a conference created to gain traction and establish an international strategy for Paris 2015. The stage was set for international business, political and social leaders to lay out clear-cut tactics for the trip to Paris. So, how did our team fare leading up to the final whistle?
Well, the Green Climate Fund, a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC as a mechanism to transfer money from the developed to the developing world in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change, saw significant progress with more than $1.3B donated - our teammates in France led the way with an unparalleled $1B USD contribution. We still have progress to make since our international goal for the GCF has been set at $10-$15B by December of this year. By all accounts, developed countries need to commit $100B by 2020 in an effort to help protect developing nations. Developing countries are often the hardest hit on the team (much the same as offensive linemen for our world), and require more attention because of the drastic impact that climate change will have on the way of life as they know it. While we are making progress, a more aggressive offensive strategy is needed to reach our $100B goal.
The good news is that we are witnessing an unprecedented amount of future funds being committed, especially by the European Union (aka our Team Captain). Setting the bar high has been the modus operandi of Europe, which is healthy motivation for the rest of our developed world to rise up and answer the call from the one who wears the "C" on their chest.
Less than two degrees of warming leading into the final two minutes of the game is where our goal lies: the "Two-Minute Warming." The representatives of Team Humanity will convene at the Paris-Le Bourget to reach a historical international agreement on our path forward. From Copenhagen to Cancun to New York City, we have reached unequivocal solidarity in our fight against this profound competitor in global warming. Our secret weapon for combat is renewable energy, the sure-bet and Peyton Manning of our squad.
The match-up is close, time is running out, and the underdogs on Team Humanity have a chance to rewrite history. We certainly have the talent to overcome the profound deficit of looming alterations to the way humanity will carry on during our time on Earth. However, our negligence on the playing field may be the cause of our team's eminent downfall. Leading to our last hope in Paris, we can only hope that the "front office" addresses the larger issue at hand. Don't touch that dial as the eyes of the world await for history to be written.