Press releases

It only takes a few countries to kick-start energy system decarbonisation - report

Published: 20/04/2017

Triggering a global transformation of our energy systems as required by the Paris Agreement does not take the whole world—it can be started by just a small group of countries, according to a new Climate Action Tracker report

The global rise of renewable energy, which accounted for over half of all new electricity installations in 2015, was a result of strong actions by just a few countries, according to “Faster & Cleaner 2: kick-starting global decarbonisation,” released by the Climate Action Tracker and the Climate Works Foundation today.

The report based its investigation on the fact that to meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term temperature limit, the global energy system must completely decarbonise by mid-century.

The Climate Action Tracker examined the trends driving decarbonisation in three key sectors of the global energy system: power, transportation, and buildings—and looked at what can drive rapid transitions in these areas.

“Germany, Denmark, and Spain introduced strong policy packages to encourage renewable energy, providing signals to investors and developers to invest in the new technologies. Next came the UK and Italy, and then China, whose bulk manufacture—especially in solar technology—provided economies of scale,” said Markus Hagemann, of NewClimate Institute and lead author of the report.

Between 2006 and 2015 installed wind power capacity increased by 600 percent, and solar energy capacity increased by 3500 percent. By 2030, solar PV is projected to become the cheapest energy generation source in most countries.

“There is still a long way to go toward total decarbonisation, but the power sector has picked up huge momentum,” said Hagemann.

“The policy packages of early movers included strong financial support schemes such as feed-in tariffs as well as mid to long term renewable energy targets. These gave certainty to investors and triggered the massive growth and price drops we see today. This initiated the wide spread application of such instruments where, by 2015, 146 countries had implemented such support schemes,” said Andrzej Ancygier, of Climate Analytics.

The report finds a similar trend is beginning in the transport sector, with the production of electric drive vehicles, which exceeded one million sales in 2016. New sales continue to exceed prior projections from only a few years ago.

“The same formula can be applied to electric cars—while they have further to go than renewable energy, all the signs are there for the decarbonisation of this sector to take off. Again, we find this change was started by just a few key players, this time Norway, the Netherlands, California and, more recently, China,” said Sebastian Sterl, of NewClimate Institute.

The type of successful policy packages that kick-started the sector often include a focus on targets for takeup, campaigns on behavioural change,  infrastructure investment—especially important for electric vehicles—and research and development.

The final sector studied in the report is buildings, which is lagging behind the other two sectors.

“With the building sector, there are proven technological solutions that can result in new, zero-carbon buildings. Innovative financial mechanisms to increase the rate of retrofitting buildings, as well as good examples of building codes for new builds, would drive adoption of these technologies,” said Yvonne Deng of Ecofys, a Navigant company.

The report makes a number of recommendations as to how decarbonisation in those sectors can meet the Paris Agreement challenge, such as increasing flexibility in power systems to integrate larger shares of renewable energy, and more countries adopting policies in the electric vehicle market and on building standards.

Markus Hagemann, NewClimate Institute: +1 415 632 7728,  
Andrzej Ancygier, Climate Analytics: +49 30 259 22 95 38,
Yvonne Deng, Ecofys: + 44 7788 973 714, 
The Climate Action Tracker is an independent, science-based assessment that tracks government action on climate, measuring it against the globally-agreed warming limit of 2˚C.   It is a joint project of the following organisations:
Climate Analytics
Climate Analytics is a non-profit organisation based in Berlin, Germany, with offices in Lomé, Togo and New York, USA, that brings together inter-disciplinary expertise in the scientific and policy aspects of climate change. Its activities include: synthesising and advancing scientific knowledge in the area of climate change science, policy and impacts; providing science and policy support to the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States in international climate negotiations, and the tracking and analysing the effectiveness of national climate policies globally.
Ecofys – A Navigant Company
Ecofys, a Navigant company, is a leading international energy and climate consultancy focused on sustainable energy for everyone. Founded in 1984, the company is a trusted advisor to governments, corporations, NGOs, and energy providers worldwide. The team delivers powerful results in the energy and climate transition sectors. Working across the entire energy value chain, Ecofys develops innovative solutions and strategies to support its clients in enabling the energy transition and working through the challenges of climate change. Additional information about Ecofys can be found at

NewClimate Institute
NewClimate Institute is a non-profit institute established in 2014. NewClimate Institute supports research and implementation of action against climate change around the globe, covering the topics international climate negotiations, tracking climate action, climate and development, climate finance and carbon market mechanisms. NewClimate Institute aims at connecting up-to-date research with the real world decision making processes. Contact: Dr. Niklas Höhne, +49 173 715 2279