The International Energy Agency (IEA) has presented a revised scenario of policies which could put the world back on course to meet its target of keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C by 2020.
The scenario that the agency presented, named the 4-for-2°C Scenario, encourages the implementation of four energy policies that can deliver significant emissions reductions while relying entirely only on existing technologies. Several countries have already successfully adopted these measures.
The report states that the energy sector could also be affected by the climate change through sudden and destructive events caused by severe weather, gradually shifting climate patterns and sea-level rise.
Speaking during the London launch of a World Energy Outlook special report ‘Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map’, IEA’s executive director Maria van der Hoeven said: “This report shows that the path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C but also finds that much more can be done to tackle energy-sector emissions without jeopardising economic growth, an important concern for many governments.”
Despite the overall annual increase, many regions have shown a positive trend towards emissions reduction. For example, the USA, switching from coal to natural gas in power generation, cut 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gas and returned to the mid-1990s levels. Europe, despite increasing its usage of coal, managed to reduce its emissions by 50 megatonnes (Mt).
China, although named the biggest contributor to the emissions growth with its 300Mt, has shown the lowest annual increase in a decade – a progress largely achieved thanks to the growing interest in renewables and improvements in energy intensity. The Japanese economy has produced 70Mt greenhouse gas emissions more than the previous year.
Climate scientists have warned that the global temperature rise could have catastrophic consequences such as flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, and the spread of diseases and extinction of species.
The IEA strategy relies on improving energy efficiency of buildings and transport, limiting the use of coal-powered energy plants, and reducing the release of methane from the oil and gas industry.
“We identify a set of proven measures that could stop the growth in global energy-related emissions by the end of this decade at no net economic cost,” said IEA chief economist Fatih Birol, the report’s lead author. “Rapid and widespread adoption could act as a bridge to further action, buying precious time while international climate negotiations continue.”
Climate negotiators meeting this week in Bonn are haggling over the content of a global climate treaty that is supposed to be adopted by 2015. The main sticking point is how to divide the burden of emissions cuts between developed and developing countries.
Industrialised countries want emerging economies like China, India and Brazil to take on bigger responsibilities, while the developing countries stress the historical responsibilities of long-time carbon polluters such as Europe and the United States.