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Climate change and energy

The latest numbers on renewable investments are in, and they aren’t great

January 16, 2020
Offshore wind turbines.
Offshore wind turbines.Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

Global investments into renewables finished 2019 with a slight gain, after a dismal first half of the year.

BloombergNEF reported Monday that the worldwide total topped $282 billion, up 1% from 2018, driven by a late surge in offshore wind projects off the coasts of China and Europe.

The numbers: Nations invested more than $138 billion into wind projects, up 6% from the previous year, including nearly $30 billion for offshore farms. Meanwhile, the world spent about $131 billion on solar projects, which was down 3%.

China remains the world’s largest investor in renewables, spending more than $83 billion, but that was the nation’s lowest level since 2013. On the other hand, the US reached a new annual record, at nearly $56 billion, as developers raced to qualify for expiring federal tax credits. 

Late rally: The second half was a marked turnaround from the first, when clean energy investments plunged 14% from the same period the year before. China led the way down, axing investments by nearly 40% as the country curtailed its highly expensive renewables subsidy program.

Not nearly enough: A slight gain beats a decline. But these figures are still nowhere near the level of investment required to slash emissions fast enough to avoid very dangerous levels of warming. Developing the energy system required to meet rising demands and prevent 2 ˚C of warming will require annual clean energy additions to quintuple by 2040, according to a recent analysis by the Breakthrough Institute.

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