Agence France-Presse, Oct. 6, 2009
BANGKOK — The global economic crisis will slash carbon emissions in 2009, opening a narrow opportunity to take decisive action on global warming, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.
The predicted three-percent fall in energy-related CO2 pollution compared with a year earlier would be the steepest drop in 40 years, chief IEA economist Fatih Birol said at a press conference in Bangkok.
The global carbon output up to now has on average grown three percent annually, he added.
Birol said this silver-lining drop in carbon pollution was a "unique window of opportunity" for the world to put itself on a path to limit the increase in global temperatures to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the scientific threshold for dangerous global warming.
The recession-driven fall would lead to CO2 emissions in 2020 being five percent lower than the IEA forecast from just a year ago, even if no further action is taken to curb global warming, he added.
The IEA estimate is part of its World Energy Outlook report, an excerpt of which was released at UN climate talks under way in the Thai capital.
It outlined how steeply countries would have to cut their energy-related carbon emissions over the next 20 years in order fix the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a level that would ensure the two-degree threshold is not crossed.
That level, measured in parts per million, is 450 ppm, according to a benchmark scientific report issued in 2007 by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
"This gives us a chance to make real progress toward a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly," said IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka in a statement.
"Every year of delay adds an extra 500 billion dollars (340 billion euros) to the investment needed between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector," he warned.
Energy production accounts for about 65 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IEA.
The climate talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been stymied for months, and are running out of time to deliver a new global climate treaty at a December conference in Copenhagen.
Rich and poor nations are divided over how to share the burden of cutting greenhouse gases, and who is going to pay for it.
Developed nations are willing to take the lead, but expect emerging giants such as Brazil, India and China to commit to mitigation measures as well -- pledges these countries have fiercely resisted.
Rich nations created the problem and should bear the brunt of the responsibility to fix it, the developing countries say.
"Continuing the current energy policies would have catastrophic consequences for the climate," said UNFCCC chief Yvo de Boer. "This is a unique opportunity... to transition the global energy system."
Tanaka confirmed that China had overtaken the United States as the world's top carbon polluter in 2007, adding that "it will be the same in the future."
While it has not announced an emission reductions target, if China fulfils its energy efficiency plans it would account for a quarter of the global effort needed by 2020 under the IEA scenario for stabilising CO2 levels, he said.
"It would put China at the forefront of the fight against climate change," Birol told AFP.
Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.
Recession results in steep fall in emissions
Financial Times, Sept. 21, 2009
The recession has resulted in an unparalleled fall in greenhouse gas emissions, providing a “unique opportunity” to move the world away from high-carbon growth, an International Energy Agency study has found.
In the first big study of the impact of the recession on climate change, the IEA found that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels had undergone “a significant decline” this year – further than in any year in the past 40. The fall will exceed the drop in the 1981 recession that followed the oil crisis.
Falling industrial output is largely responsible for the plunge in CO2, but other factors have played a role, including the shelving of many plans for new coal-fired power stations owing to falling demand and lack of financing.
For the first time, government policies to cut emissions have also had a significant impact. The IEA estimates that about a quarter of the reduction is the result of regulation, an “unprecedented” proportion. Three initiatives had a particular effect: Europe’s target to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020; US car emission standards; and China’s energy efficiency policies.
Fatih Birol, chief IEA economist, said the fall was “surprising” and would make it “less difficult” to achieve the emissions reductions scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous global warming. “We have a new situation, with the changes in energy demand and the postponement of many energy investments,” he said. “But this only has meaning if we can make use of this unique window of opportunity. [That means] a deal in Copenhagen.”
The IEA’s study of energy-related CO2 emissions, which make up two-thirds of greenhouse gases, is an excerpt from its annual World Energy Outlook, to be published in November. The excerpt will be released early next month to reach policymakers in time for the final negotiating sessions before the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December.
On Tuesday, heads of government will gather in New York for a climate-change summit held by Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary-general.
Mr Birol said a global agreement was needed to create clarity for companies and encourage them to cut emissions.
“We hope that an agreement in Copenhagen would give a signal for new investments to go in [an environmentally] sustainable direction,” he said. “If we miss this opportunity, it will be much more expensive and therefore harder than ever to bring the world’ s energy system on to a sustainable path.”
Mr Birol’s call for a strong agreement at Copenhagen has been echoed by an increasing number of business leaders.
A group of 181 investors with $13,000bn under management last week demanded a deal requiring stringent emissions cuts, and on Tuesday 500 companies including General Electric, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble will make a similar call.
Chad Holliday, chief executive of DuPont, said most business leaders were expecting to come under “some form of carbon trading” and were awaiting details. “If you had some very clear goals [set at Copenhagen] businesses would extrapolate from that what they need to do as an individual company.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009