A slump in global greenhouse gas emissions caused by the economic crisis risks being temporary unless governments take concerted action on climate change, the International Energy Agency has warned.
The Paris-based IEA, which is the energy watchdog of 28 developed countries including Ireland, says the financial and economic crisis has had a considerable impact on the energy sector worldwide. Investment in polluting technologies has been deferred and CO2 emissions could fall in 2009 by as much as 3% - - steeper than at any time in the last 40 years. This would lead to emissions in 2020 being 5% lower -- even in the absence of additional policies -- than the IEA estimated just twelve months ago.
The IEA on Tuesday presented an advanced excerpt of the World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2009 with details of its study of the impact of the Great Recession. It says the economic downturn has created an opportunity to put the global energy system on a trajectory to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at 450 parts per million (ppm) of CO2-equivalent, in line with an increase in global temperature of around 2° Celsius. Presenting the excerpt at the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) climate change talks in Bangkok, IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said, “This gives us a chance to make real progress towards a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly. The success of the UNFCCC process is crucial in this regard.”
“The message is simple and stark: if the world continues on the basis of today's energy and climate policies, the consequences of climate change will be severe. Energy is at the heart of the problem – and so must form the core of the solution. For this very reason, following discussions with IEA member governments and the UNFCCC Secretariat, I took the unprecedented decision to present an exceptional early release today of the climate change work of our flagship publication WEO 2009 to provide a timely contribution towards a landmark agreement in Copenhagen.”
The IEA 450 ppm Scenario sees the use of fossil fuels peak before 2020, and energy-related CO2 emissions just 6% higher in 2020 than in 2007. Relative to a Reference Scenario of current policies, emissions in 2020 would need to be reduced by 3.8 gigatonnes (Gt) worldwide to achieve the 450 Scenario. 1.6 Gt of this reduction occurs in OECD countries, while policies and measures in China - - already being considered by the Chinese government - - account for 1 Gt of emissions reductions, more than anywhere else. This underlines the leading role China will play in the global combat against climate change.
To achieve this, the IEA estimates investment of $10 trillion will be necessary between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector - - equivalent to 0.5% of global GDP in 2020, rising to 1.1% of GDP in 2030. The agency says fuel savings across industry, transport and buildings total $8.6 trillion between today and 2030, similar to the additional investment in these sectors.
The IEA found some policy measures, such as the European Union’s emissions trading scheme, had been successful while China’s fuel efficiency standards for vehicles had contributed a quarter of the fall in emissions, with the rest coming from falling output.
“The biggest challenge will be to ensure there is funding to back this energy transformation, with substantial support for developing countries,” said Tanaka. “In 2020, the energy sector in non OECD countries would need to make $200 billion of extra investments in clean power, energy-efficiency measures in industry and buildings and next-generation hybrid and electric vehicles. For this, developing countries will need some financial support from OECD countries. OECD domestic investment needs amount to a further $215 billion in 2020. But the benefits, in terms of energy savings, reduced fuel imports and air quality improvements offset much of this extra cost, not to mention the fact that this will help to avoid extreme climate change.”