IEA: Follow through on climate promises

07 November 2007

Politicians must follow through on their climate change rhetoric, said the International Energy Agency (IEA), or current policies would lead to a 57% increase in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

The IEA's annual World Energy Outlook put forward two projections of the world's energy use to 2030. The Reference Scenario is based on climate protection policies already in place while the Alternative Policy Scenario envisages all new policies currently under discussion being adopted.

In both cases the increases in energy use were dominated by the needs of China and India, both of whom are so large and developing so rapidly that they could account for 45% of the Reference Scenario's 55% increase in energy demand.

Furthermore, those nations are expected to meet their needs largely through a huge expansion in the use of coal for power generation. This was identified by the IEA as the main global driver in global warming.

The IEA said that heading off the pollution of a coal expansion would require governments to place energy efficiency and conservation in a central role and that nuclear power and renewables could make a major contribution. In the longer term, capturing and storing carbon emissions from coal power plants would be very promising, particularly in China, India and the USA where coal use is set to grow fastest. All governments 'must focus' on this, the IEA stressed, saying: "There has so far been more talk than action in most countries."

In addition, the Alternative Policy Scenario showed that action taken should be more intensive than that currently proposed. The scenario foresaw a 27% increase in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, meaning a stabilisation of carbon dioxide at 550 parts per million (ppm) and an average temperature increase of 3 degrees C.

In a scenario based around stabilisation at 450 ppm, the level thought to limit warming to 2 degrees C and avoid catastrophic effects, the required emissions savings came from "switching to nuclear power and renewables" as well as improved efficiency in fossil-fuel use in industry, buildings and transport and widespread deployment of carbon capture devices.

Further information

International Energy Agency

WNA's Policy Responses to Global Warming information paper