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World Can Save $71 Trillion by Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Clean Energy

Posted by Christopher N. Fox at May 22, 2014 09:15 AM |
“The longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes to transform the global energy system.” That’s one key takeaway from the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s new Energy Technology Perspectives report.
by Christopher N. Fox, Director, Special Projects Ceres Posted on May 22, 2014

“The longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes to transform the global energy system.” That’s one key takeaway from the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s new Energy Technology Perspectives report. The report, released May 12, provides a new estimate of the investment in clean energy needed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius: an additional $44 trillion by 2050.

This means the world needs to invest an average of an additional $1.2 trillion in clean energy per year for the next 36 years in order to limit climate risk. But this figure is investment, not cost. One of IEA’s most important findings is that the $44 trillion investment would result in over $115 trillion in fuel savings – a net savings of $71 trillion.

This year Ceres has rallied businesses, investors and policymakers around its new Clean Trillion campaign. The fact that the clean energy investment goal is now $44 trillion by 2050 – $8 trillion higher than the $36 trillion in the previous IEA analysis – gives the campaign even more urgency.  It is clear that we need to raise our collective ambition.

A new Ceres report released this month, however, found that businesses have not sufficiently stepped up their leadership. Company efforts to establish programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy sourcing are lagging far behind what’s needed. The analysis, Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, assesses the sustainability performance of 613 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., representing nearly 80 percent of the total market capitalization of all public companies in the country. On climate change and clean energy, the report found:

  • 71 percent of companies have at least some activities in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only 35 percent have established time-bound targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In terms of renewable energy, 37 percent of companies have implemented a program, while only six percent have quantitative targets to increase renewable energy sourcing.


At the Ceres Conference this month, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres implored the business community to do more.

While Congress appears deadlocked until after the November 2014 elections, there are two key clean energy-related developments in the Obama Administration and in the states that Ceres will be tracking in June:

  • The expected release of the first-ever EPA carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, which would spur major new investment in energy efficiency and clean energy;
  • The fight to protect state clean energy standards in Ohio. The Ohio House of Representatives is expected to vote as early as next week on legislation aimed at crippling Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Read more from Mercy Investment Services.


We welcome your thoughts and questions on Clean Trillion. Please feel free to connect with me at fox@ceres.org or on twitter @ChristopherNFox.