Delays see carbon costs rise by $1 trillion

07 December 2010

Implementing clean energy solutions too slowly will make reaching climate goals more expensive and less likely, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned as it put up the price tag on the world's climate change ambitions by $1 trillion. 


It is essential, the IEA said, that countries increase efforts to meet the goals of the 2009 Copenhagen climate change meeting, even though it failed to reach a consensus. The resulting Copenhagen Accord set the overall goal of keeping the global temperature increase to less than 2°C, but it did not set emissions reductions to enable this to be achieved, nor was it endorsed by all countries.


Speaking at the latest UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said, "Despite the positive steps taken last year in Copenhagen, we must achieve a lower emission path."


He noted, "The various pledges of developed and developing countries taken in Copenhagen mean that climate mitigation is no longer a taboo between developed and developing countries. The question we are addressing now is how to effectively mobilise the whole energy sector to abate emissions globally."


According to IEA figures, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stood at 40% above 1990 levels in 2008. It noted that, while there was a pause in the worldwide increase in CO2 emissions during 2009, "vibrant economic growth in emerging economies is still driving more energy demand and with it, higher CO2 emissions."


In a statement, the IEA said, "The investment bill to decarbonise the global energy mix has risen by $1 trillion since last year's IEA estimate, for an identical environmental goal." The body last year put a figure of $10.5 trillion on "a global transition to more efficient, low-carbon energy systems... by 2030."


The latest edition of the IEA's World Energy Outlook, published last month, suggests that CO2 emissions will rise by 21% above 2008 levels by 2035, a trend that would commit the world to a 3.5°C warming. The report's 450 Scenario estimates what it would take to bring the world back on track to limit atmospheric greenhouse gases to a concentration of 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent and global temperature increase to 2°C. The 450 scenario assumes a rapid transformation of the global energy system, with the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and with renewables and nuclear doubling their combined share of world primary energy demand to almost 40% in 2035, with low carbon fuels (nuclear, renewables and fossil fuel plants fitted with carbon capture and storage) accounting for over three quarters of world generation by 2035.


Tanaka told the Cancun meeting that in addition to international coordination, "sustained domestic policy efforts to integrate climate objectives with the other energy policy priorities of economic welfares and energy security" are also needed.


Tanaka commented, "Whether we look at energy resources or at technologies needed to combat climate change, it is safe to say that the age of cheap energy is over." He added, "We must work at all levels, in all countries and with all technologies to find the solutions we will need to transform our energy sector and bring lasting global emissions reductions."


Researched and written 

by World Nuclear News