On Tuesday morning, 120 world leaders filled the UN Headquarters in New York to begin the daylong Climate Summit. Since the last high-level gathering in 2009 ended in dismay and news that CO2 emissions increased by 2.3% over the past year, there was much pressure to come to an agreement on policies to cut emissions. One of the hot topics of discussion was the large part solar energy will play in climate change coupled with its increasing affordability across all sectors.
As a lead-in to the summit, President Obama made several statements in the past week about the direction of solar in the U.S. The President announced a plan to install more than 35 megawatts of solar in rural America. Additionally, three military bases will offer a pilot program for active duty military to install solar panels allowing them to easily assimilate back into the workforce by joining one of the fastest-growing industries.
During the summit, several leaders spoke of the future of solar playing a large role in reducing emissions worldwide. This is largely fueled by the simple fact that solar is becoming more affordable in general. Former Vice President Al Gore noted that in 79 countries, energy from solar is now cheaper than coal. In fact, “the cost of solar energy has come down 80% since 2008…That happens because there are companies out there and governments deciding to inject research and development funding into the industry to bring down the cost of production,” agrees U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres. John Coequyt, director of the Sierra Club’s International Climate Campaign, stated that “the cheap availability of solar energy has really changed the dynamic quite a bit.”
With solar becoming more affordable across all sectors of the market, it is essential for the U.S. to take substantial action on the governmental, commercial, and residential level to reduce its emissions. “We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries, to prevent the worst effects of climate change,” Obama addressed.
The main purpose of the summit is to build momentum for the Paris conference late next year, which will yield a deal on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The hope is that countries will set goals soon for cutting emissions so that they can agree to them at the Paris conference. The U.S. is one of a few leaders to make such drastic leaps, including increasing the production of solar energy tenfold since Obama took office. The U.S.’s stance on emission reduction through solar will be a great model for other nations. Many others have yet to tap into the market at all, but discussion now will be a great springboard to Paris.