Climate change policy slipping on Govts’ agendas, says IEA

Richa Mishra New Delhi | Updated on June 10, 2013

Fatih Birol, Chief Economist, IEA

Make energy efficiency schemes mandatory

India, like major economies such as China, the US, European Union, Japan, will need to strengthen its energy efficiency policy, push for clean coal technologies, and reduce subsidies on fossil fuels, in order to help meet the target of limiting the long-term rise in the global temperatures.

Worried that the issue of climate change has slipped down Governments’ policy agendas, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says intensive action is required to keep the target for sustaining the global average temperatures at not more than 2 degree Celsius by 2020 alive.

Fatih Birol, Chief Economist, IEA, said that “if we don’t do it now it will have devastating effect on the environment in the future. One of the worst affected will be the energy sector. Power plants need water to cool down, but because of climate change it will get hotter. This will result in consumption of more water for cooling the plants.”

The energy sector is the single largest source of climate changing greenhouse gas emissions, Birol told Business Line in a telephonic interview from Paris at the launch of Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, a Special Report from the IEA’s flagship publication World Energy Outlook.

Despite positive developments in some countries, global energy related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4 per cent in 2012.

Even after allowing for policies now being pursued, global energy related greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are projected to be nearly 4 gigatonnes carbon equivalent higher than a level consistent with attaining the 2 degree Celsius target.

Governments had collectively decided that the world needs to limit the average global temperature increase to no more than 2 degree Celsius. International negotiations are taking place to this end, but an agreement is unlikely to emerge before 2015, when new legal obligations will be worked out.

Scientific analysis shows that the climate is already changing and that extreme weather events – such as storms, floods and heat waves – will become more frequent and intense, as well as increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels.

The IEA World Energy Outlook special report proposes implementation of four measures by countries which would make this target achievable – Adopting specific energy efficiency measures (49 per cent of emission savings), limiting construction and use of the least efficient coal fired power plants (21 per cent savings), minimising methane emissions from upstream oil and gas production (18 per cent savings), and accelerating the phase out (partial) of subsidies to fossil fuel consumption (12 per cent savings).

India also needs to follow a similar method. Energy efficiency schemes should be made mandatory, Birol said.

In 2012, China made the largest contribution to the increase in global carbon-dioxide emission, but its growth was one of the lowest in a decade. This was driven largely by deployment of renewables and a significant improvement in the energy intensity of its economy.

In the US the switch from coal to gas in power generation has helped reduce emissions by 200 million tonnes, bringing them back to the levels of mid-1990s. Birol, however, cautioned that this encouraging trend could well be reversed citing examples of Europe and Japan.

Though emerging economies are stepping up efforts in clean energy, global policy development is mixed. Birol agrees that it is the responsibility of the developed nations to reduce carbon emissions and also be supportive to the emerging economies in their efforts.

Published on June 10, 2013

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