Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time and fossil fuel emissions is by far the greatest contributor to climate change. To reduce emissions, the world needs to transition into a low-carbon society that will require more clean, renewable energy.
But can the world’s energy needs be met through renewable sources like wind, water and solar? How feasible and viable is a major transition of world energy production systems from hydrocarbon to renewables? What are the best technologies available? Can people from the poorest of nations afford, or even access, to energy generated from renewables?
These are the questions veteran journalist John Defterios will seek to answer in CNN’s new program The Global Energy Challenge.
At CNN, we are saying that this transition from hydrocarbon to renewables is an essential ingredient to keeping global warming under control
Launched on July 4th, the year-long initiative will be dedicated to discovering what is a realistic transition from hydrocarbon to renewables - and if this transition happens at a pace that can help reduce global carbon emissions fast enough.
Based out of Abu Dhabi, Defterios is CNN Business Emerging Markets Editor and Anchor. He has over three decades of experience covering the emerging economies, with a specialty in energy, geo-politics and trade.
AWANI Review had a chat with Defterios during his recent trip to Kuala Lumpur. Here are snippets of the conversation.
The conceptualisation of The Global Energy Challenge and its objective:
“The target (under the Paris climate accord) is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees celcius by 2050. And because it's a longer target, the issue is not in everybody’s awareness. At CNN, we are saying that this transition from hydrocarbon to renewables is an essential ingredient to keeping global warming under control.
It is a fantastic initiative comprising four documentaries, 26 reports from almost every corner of the world and four events to foster the debate between the younger generation and energy leaders on how the industry can make a shift to renewable energy.”
The Global Energy Challenge - From Hydrocarbons to Renewables
According to Defterios, it took the CNN team three months to develop the idea and format of the The Global Energy Challenge.
Prior to Kuala Lumpur, the program led Defterios to India where for two weeks, he examined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pledge to bring electricity to every Indian home in a country with a population of 1.3 billion - where 70 percent of the country’s energy is still supplied by coal.
"He has delivered on the promise. Now, he just needs to make sure everybody can afford the electricity. Second is connectivity. Third is to make sure that the energy doesn’t come from hydrocarbons.
Some of it has to be connected to the power grid to be distributed but there are already innovations - off-grid solutions - where you can put solar panels and wind power in little villages. They then share that energy through that common storage in the village."
We have to be realistic about how fast the transition can take place and are we investing in the best technology?
From India to China, Germany to South Korea, the Global Energy Challenge travels to major continents of the world to examine the state of energy innovation undertaken by governments and the private sector.
In Malaysia, Defterios explored the role of natural gas as a ‘transition fuel’ - the bridge between coal and crude oil and renewables. He also went to the ground to highlight a professionally-driven initiative dedicated to making buildings green:
“The Green Building Index is saying there is nothing wrong with building skyscrapers if they serve a purpose, fuel efficient and use the best materials to protect the environment.
There’s a whole architecture movement in Kuala Lumpur that’s been around for ten years but nobody really talks about it. This grassroots movement is proving that you don’t need the government to tell the people what to do; they are going out there to foster a new generation of architects to put green in their blueprint in every project.
“Kuala Lumpur is part of this fantastic global movement that is also growing in Europe and the United States. I think the Global Energy Challenge is a good place to show it because at the core of it is about energy efficiency.”
CNN's John Defterios - Focus on Rising Wealth Gap
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to tackling climate change but any discussions on development funding and financial support, says Defterios, should aim to facilitate economies on a greener growth path:
“We have to be realistic about how fast the transition can take place and are we investing in the best technology? For instance, if you need to use coal (to generate energy), do you have the best technology on the coal plant to make sure it emits the least amount of pollution?
I think institutions like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank should be fostering these kind of discussions; if they are going in to a country to help with its development, let’s do it as green as possible."
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