A first-of-its kind report from WWF and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows the potential risks and benefits of a rapid shift to renewable energy for people and nature. A major transformation of our global energy system is crucial to ensuring a safer and livable future. A new report from WWF and the BCG provides a clear and tangible illustration of the stark differences between a rapid transformation to this renewable energy future and one reluctant to leave fossil fuels behind.
The report, Building a Nature-Positive Energy Transformation, estimates an energy transition’s overall impact through 30 key metrics across eight impact areas: air quality, water quality, ecosystems and biodiversity, area footprint, water use, free flowing rivers, society and human wellbeing, and mining. The results demonstrate that across those metrics, a renewable transition is dramatically better.
Key findings include:
- An energy system powered by renewables will be far better across a range of metrics — 2-16 times better — for nature and people. Rapidly transforming our energy system will have a positive impact on a range of key resources including air and water quality, human health, biodiversity and ecosystems.
- The largest differences are in actively mined areas, air and water quality impacts, biodiversity loss, land lost and degraded from climate impacts, poverty risk, exposure to chronic water scarcity, biome shifts, heat stress and flooding risk. These improved outcomes are possible largely due to the decommissioning of coal mines, reduction in fossil fuel combustion, and lower climate change impacts in the Rapid Transition future.
- Twice as many jobs are projected to be created under a rapid transformation, having a positive impact on the workforce.
- Reducing the frequency and intensity of climate-driven disasters will save $2 trillion per year in infrastructure damage.
- The renewable transition could place additional demands on water use, land footprint, and free flowing rivers, but the report outlines strategies to avoid or dramatically minimize these risks.
- Although the demand for critical minerals will increase, the amount of land impacted by mining will actually decrease in a renewable powered future, compared to one powered largely by fossil fuels.
- In a fossil fuel-powered future, the amount of land lost to flooding, desertification and wildfires will be considerably larger than the footprint for renewable energy development.