Paris climate talks start, solar and electric cars part of the solution

The Peoples Climate March in Auckland

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Ahead of the UN Climate Conference, which started in Paris on Monday, more than 600,000 people around the world joined the biggest mobilisation of climate change activism in history telling world leaders to take urgent action. Kiwis took part in events in 35 locations around the country, with the biggest march in Auckland attracting about 15,000 people.

The climate talks started with world leaders making pledges to reduce carbon emissions. Now delegates are negotiating how to make that happen with the aim of having an agreement by the end of next week. Check the Guardian for the latest news on how the talks are progressing. Radio NZ looks into what the talks are all about and what they mean for NZ.

Energy advocate Ryan Mearns says an agreement in Paris will need to be seen as a step in the right direction, but real climate action will need to be taken by individual countries to reduce fossil fuel use and increase renewable energy. NZ will commit up to $200 million to support countries climate change efforts and $20 million towards research to cut agricultural greenhouse gases. The NZ Herald's science reporter, Jamie Morton, is talking to a range of experts on climate change related issues including Victoria University's Associate Professor Ralph Chapman and Professor Ralph Sims from Massey University.

 NZ Herald columnist Sam Judd, who is in Paris, says New Zealand has picked up the embarrassing honour of being named the most regressive country at the conference. Newly released figures show our government spends up to 20 times more money on wooing oil and gas companies to New Zealand than it does on promoting renewable energy.

As the talks were about to start, India and France announced the launch of an International Solar Alliance of over 120 countries to boost solar energy in developing countries. And billionaires Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and other high profile entrepreneurs pledged to spark a "new economic revolution" based around clean energy. The Guardian says investing in low carbon technologies may be the most viable solution to dealing with climate change. Westpac says it is increasing its lending to NZ companies in the clean tech sector while reducing money to fossil fuel businesses. Most of Britain's major cities will be run entirely on green energy by 2050 and Sweden aims to be one of the world's first fossil fuel-free welfare nations.

A large-scale shift to electric cars in industrialised countries, and greater use of public transportation in cities, could help halve transport carbon emissions by 2050, say German researchers. NZ could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by about 20% if we generated all our electricity from renewable sources and switched completely to electric cars, reports Stuff. In Norway, 25% of new car sales are now electric vehicles.

Solar has the potential to become Ireland's cheapest electricity generating technology, according to a new report by KPMG. After years of hesitation, Saudi Arabia is finally willing to invest over USD 100 billion in solar technologies. Dubia will invest billions of dollars in clean energy as part of a strategy that could see solar panels on the roofs of all building in the city by 2030. Latin America is one of the fastest growing solar markets worldwide, spurred on by high solar resources and surging electricity demand, resulting in installation growth of 280% in 2015 compared to 2014.