IEA Makes Recommendations To Cut Global Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Last year, worldwide emissions reached a record high of 31.6 billion tons, despite the fact the United States had its lowest emissions total since the mid-90s, said an International Energy Agency release on Monday.
Meanwhile, China had the largest emissions growth, up 3.8 percent over last year. However, the additional 300 million tons was one of the lowest increases in a decade, the report said.
American emissions dropped 200 million tons, or 3.8 percent, which the IEA credited partially to a shift from coal to gas. Europe’s emissions declined by 50 million tons, or 1.4 percent, the agency noted.
At the London launch of the agency´s World Energy Outlook Special Report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven warned about the relaxed attitudes many governments have been taking towards emissions
“Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away — quite the opposite,” she said.
Most climate experts agree that emissions must be cut if the average global temperature is to be kept from rising above two degree Celsius, the threshold for irreversible damage to societies around the planet.
“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 jeopardizing economic growth, an important concern for many governments,” van der Hoeven said.
According to the IEA, the energy-producing sector accounts for about two-thirds of global carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
If the average global temperature were to rise by two degrees or higher, coastal cities and island nations could experience massive flooding, disruptions to the water supply, and negative impact to local species.
The IEA report suggested that emissions could be reduced significantly by 2020 through energy efficiency improvement, cutting the use of coal-fired power plants, reducing the release of methane from oil and gas power plants, and gradually reducing fossil fuel subsidies.
Climate officials are currently meeting this week in Bonn, Germany. They are reported to be debating the content of an international climate pact that is slated for adoption by 2015. One of the main disputes is the distribution of emissions cuts among developed and developing countries.
While some officials want emerging economies like China, India and Brazil to implement bigger emissions´ cuts, others say long-time polluters Europe and the United States need to shoulder a larger portion of the burden. According to the IEA report, developing countries currently account for 60 percent of global emissions from energy, up from 45 percent in 2000.
Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, told the Guardian that the IEA´s strategy of replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon power, halting the creation of inefficient power plants and reducing fossil fuel subsidies, is an effective way to quickly cut emissions.
“This will not harm economic growth, and they are policies that can be taken in a fragile economic context,” he said. “I am very worried about the emissions trends. The chance of keeping (below a two-degree rise) is still there, technically, but it is not very great. It is becoming extremely challenging.”