In the search of real freedom
(published as part of the essays collection “Decarbonizing the future: seizing power for global change” (WWF), April 13th 2014; available on-line at: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwf_decarbonising_the_future_seizing_power_for_global_change_1.pdf)
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”
Our commitments on climate change mitigation have never been more significant. Climate change is one of the biggest environmental threats of all time, and a major danger to sustainable development. The responsibilities we assume now to deal with it and break its drivers will without doubt shape global freedom in the decades to come; to a large extent, they will define levels of human dignity and equality in the future.
Real freedom can be defined as humanity’s right and ability to build a sustainable future – one in which people can live in harmony with nature. This is a universal vision that must be incorporated into everyone’s life and that everybody should be entitled to pursue in earnest.
Climate change puts it under serious threat. The increase in global mean temperature and the subsequent changes in the climate system pose all kinds of dangers to economic, social, cultural and humanitarian liberties. We risk death, injury and disrupted livelihoods; food insecurity; severe harm to both large urban populations and rural communities; infrastructure breakdown; and loss of ecosystems and the services they provide. Overall, climate change endangers the possibility of a more peaceful, prosperous and just world in the future.
However, such disaster can be avoided, if we act now, envisioning global progress being powered by nature and truly exploiting existing opportunities to make a renewable economy a reality.
Now is the time to stop burning dirty coal, oil and gas and ensure a decent future for our own kind. Fossil fuels are the main contributor to the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and a prime driver of climate change. We cannot keep compromising future generations’ opportunities to live in real freedom. Now is the time to abandon the dirty highway we are on, leading to a future of environmental and human devastation, and embrace a cleaner and safer path for our and the next generation’s wellbeing.
WWF’s Energy Report shows that renewable energy has the potential to meet the world’s energy demand entirely, while co-existing with sustainable development. It shows that high shares of electricity being supplied by renewable sources means we do not have to depend on declining fossil fuels, if energy efficiency is maximized and there are reductions in global energy consumption and demand for energy services.
Overall, the report shows that a cleaner path is achievable, based on currently available technologies and favourable long-term economics.
Advancing the global economy toward large-scale, clean and reliable energy provision and access over the next decades will determine our success in achieving real climate safety at low cost. Ensuring the transition to a fully renewable energy system while achieving substantial GHG emissions reductions at the pace needed presents significant challenges that only collective commitment and accountability will overcome.
Climate change is a global problem, and as such, it demands global efforts to come up with solutions. Without explicit global cooperation and determination to achieve reductions, GHG concentrations will keep rising and containment of the worst climate change impacts will be impossible. We will all be affected, so we all need to work together to cut emissions.
Collectively, we must start believing in clean energy as our new normal. We must promote and develop existing and new renewable energy sources in an ecologically and socially respectful manner, to provide enough sustainable energy for all.Collectively, we must end the energy poverty about 3 billion people on Earth live in. We must provide clean and reliable electricity access to everyone, while fostering sustainable energy use and conservation practices.
Collectively, we must invest in decarbonizing the energy sector; in keeping energy demand reductions at an ambitious pace by developing and using cleaner and more energy efficient products and buildings; and in switching to renewables to provide sustainable heat and electricity. Collectively, we must foster the adoption of policies that encourage such investments; and together, we must stop financial reward for environmental and human harm and divest and stop subsidizing conventional energy.
Collectively, we must stop food waste. We must choose food that is sourced in an efficient and sustainable way to free up land for nature and sustainable forestry and bioenergy production. Together, we need to eat less meat, so everyone has an equal right to healthy levels of protein in their diet.
Collectively, we must reduce, reuse and recycle to minimize waste and save energy. We must develop durable materials and avoid unnecessary consumption of unnecessary things.
Collectively, we must encourage greater use of public transport, and reduce the distances we and our goods travel. We must promote electrification wherever possible, and support research into clean fuels for shipping and aviation.
Collectively, we must develop national, bilateral and multilateral action plans to promote research and development in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Collectively, every decision we make must be framed within the context of sustainability. We must ensure at all times that our wellbeing is compatible with global environmental and development goals.
Collectively, we must act on climate change and ambitiously pursue climate and energy agreements, to provide global guidance and promote global cooperation on renewable energy and efficiency efforts.
Large-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency are both preconditions to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C and to avoid unbearable risks and losses. A world fully powered by nature’s energy is worth achieving, and is possible if we encourage people to change their perceptions and make greener choices now.
WWF believes 100 per cent renewable energy is possible, if we strive for a new energy paradigm today to contain the impacts of climate change. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are essential if we want to improve social and environmental wellbeing, live in a way that respects the future, and realize real freedom in harmony with nature.