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In a moment of urgency, put energy efficiency first

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Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to achieve economic growth, decarbonise economies and meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, write Kim Fausing and Rachel Kyte.


As the world increasingly benefits from the price revolution in renewable energy and the world’s largest investors come to grips with the phase-down of fossil fuels, it has become clearer that we have the technology and the finance necessary to realise the Paris Climate Agreement. 


Despite this opportunity, we are not acting with the urgency that the global climate emergency requires. 


Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on global warming warned that if we’re to limit warming to 1.5°C we must cut emissions by nearly half by 2030, and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Despite not grabbing headlines the same way as renewable energy, and far too often ignored in governments energy planning, energy efficiency can deliver 40% of the CO2 abatement necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement. 


Energy efficiency is the “fifth fuel” that every country possesses – a universal means to decouple economic growth from energy demand.


Continuing to ignore the basic principles of resource efficiency and basing procurement decisions on upfront rather than lifecycle costs is perverse. 


We should also keep in mind that energy efficiency is good business, both for those implementing it and for the green industry providing the solutions, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.


In this moment of urgency, determined leadership is necessary to set us on the critical path to achieving the Paris Agreement and the global goal on sustainable energy, SDG7. 


Our message to governments and cities is simple: put energy efficiency first. How?


Start with ambition and set a binding national target. Then, achieve it by putting energy efficiency on equal footing with other energy goals such as energy security and develop sector-specific targets that are championed at the highest levels and strategies that are implemented by delivery units.


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