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Renewable Energy Advocates Say Trend "Unstoppable"

FILE: A technician works on solar power panels at the Atlantic Shrimpers farm in Badagry, Lagos, Nigeria. Taken July 5, 2022.

Russia's war in Ukraine has forced a short-term scramble for fossil fuels but the rise of solar, wind and other clean energies is "unstoppable", the head of International Renewable Energy Agency told AFP.

Speaking at the UN COP27 climate summit in Egypt, International Renewal Energy Agency chief Francesco La Camera said market forces now all but ensure renewables will keep growing fast -- but also warned that the pace will need to double to prevent a climate catastrophe.

Noting the Russian attack on Ukraine has sent nations scrambling for fossil fuel supplies, "In the short term, this will have an impact," said La Camera,.

"But in the medium and long term," he said, "there is no other way than to accelerate decarbonization. Because ultimately renewables are not only good for the climate, jobs, GDP, but are a real way to ensure energy independence."

Africa, where COP27 is being held this year, has enormous potential to harness renewables, especially the power of the sun, but is so far lagging behind, experts say.

Investment in renewables there fell to an 11-year low last year, according to a report by research organization BloombergNEF.

The continent captured only 0.6 percent of global investments in the sector.

"Africa has phenomenal potential," said the IRENA chief. "They can produce 1,000 times the electricity and energy they need. This continent is an incredible powerhouse.

"But we need to review the way cooperation works," he added. "Africa cannot develop and move towards a clean energy system without the right physical and legal infrastructure."

"It's in the interest of the continent to jump on the new train" and not "stay stuck in old technologies," he said, predicting this would generate millions of new jobs and accelerate economic growth.

"But this can only be done," La Camera said, "if developed countries are ready to facilitate, to support, to work with Africans to make this possible."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also highlighted the strategic aspect of a shift to clean and safe renewables.

Russia's "use of energy as a weapon", he said, "is a stark reminder of the need to transition from dependence on fossil fuels to renewables, because that will make us less dependent on Russian gas and Russian oil."

Helping NATO allies and countries everywhere shift to green power will not just help mitigate global warming, he said, but will also "be good for our security."

La Camera said he saw no danger of the United States backsliding in President Joe Biden's push to expand clean energies.

"The market is the engine," he said. "The market is already saying clearly that we are moving toward a system based on renewables and complemented by hydrogen, mainly green. No one can stop this progress."

Even under ex-president Donald Trump, "coal-fired power plants were already closing in the United States," said La Camera.

"The question is not where we are going but how fast and at what scale."