Al Gore has issued a warning that the “sustainability revolution” is now at a pivotal point, with war in Ukraine having driven action to shed fossil-fuel dependency, but with economic and political problems hampering progress.
Speaking to launch the latest Sustainability Trends Report from the investment firm he co-founded, the former US vice president said: “We find ourselves at a tipping point in the sustainability revolution.”
Geopolitical events of the past year, including war in Ukraine, had had highlighted the “urgent” threat fossil-fuel dependency posed to global security and democracy, he said.
“We must embrace this moment as a global epiphany – and indeed, this year, world leaders are beginning to rise to meet this moment, with the EU taking critical steps to rapidly scale-up renewable energy capacity and the United States passing ground-breaking investments in climate solutions with the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Gore.
Generation Investment Management, also co-founded by David Blood, former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said its report assessed the global state of sustainability, including the power sector, industrial emissions, buildings, land, food and climate finance.
The firm said the report found that although the international response to the war the US inflation reduction legislation had increased the chances of a swift acceleration in the clean energy transition, “the turbulent political and economic backdrop means momentum is fragile”.
On climate finance, the report said that though annual investment in the clean economy seemed certain to exceed $1tn in the next few years, that was not enough, with BloombergNEF calculating that investment had to reach $2trn by the middle of this decade to get on a path consistent with the 1.5-degree goal, then double again by 2030.
Regarding the power sector, the report predicted emissions from global electricity production were almost certainly going to peak, perhaps as soon as 2025, and then start to fall.
Significant energy transition progress had been made in highly-developed economies, it said, and where emissions were still rising, they were doing so more slowly.
Meanwhile in the transport sector, the report said the rising popularity of electric cars “might be the single best piece of news for the energy transition in 2022”.
There was no longer any doubt that the world’s automotive fleet would be electrified, it said, but cautioned that the transition was being slowed by shortages of critical minerals like lithium, and there were still problems around government policies and charging infrastructure.
In the real estate sector the sustainability trends report said buildings were responsible for 6% of global emissions and the building-energy problem had become urgent, “if only because so little progress has been made solving it”.
Governments had still not found the right mix of policies to speed up the transition to a greener stock of buildings, and rates of renovation and energy retrofitting remained low everywhere.
Gore said: “Amid the reasons for optimism, we cannot afford complacency in our efforts to confront the climate crisis.”