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Chapter 9 - Renewable Energy in the Context of Sustainable Development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

Ottmar Edenhofer
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Ramón Pichs-Madruga
Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial (CIEM)
Youba Sokona
The Sahara and Sahel Observatory
Kristin Seyboth
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Susanne Kadner
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Timm Zwickel
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Patrick Eickemeier
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Gerrit Hansen
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Steffen Schlömer
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Christoph von Stechow
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
Patrick Matschoss
Technical Support Unit of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panels on Climate Change
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Executive Summary

Historically, economic development has been strongly correlated with increasing energy use and growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Renewable energy (RE) can help decouple that correlation, contributing to sustainable development (SD). In addition, RE offers the opportunity to improve access to modern energy services for the poorest members of society, which is crucial for the achievement of any single of the eight Millennium Development Goals.

Theoretical concepts of SD can provide useful frameworks to assess the interactions between SD and RE. SD addresses concerns about relationships between human society and nature. Traditionally, SD has been framed in the three-pillar model—Economy, Ecology, and Society—allowing a schematic categorization of development goals, with the three pillars being interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Within another conceptual framework, SD can be oriented along a continuum between the two paradigms of weak sustainability and strong sustainability. The two paradigms differ in assumptions about the substitutability of natural and human-made capital. RE can contribute to the development goals of the three-pillar model and can be assessed in terms of both weak and strong SD, since RE utilization is defined as sustaining natural capital as long as its resource use does not reduce the potential for future harvest.

Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation
Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
, pp. 707 - 790
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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