Low-carbon future

Low-carbon future

The world must start a “complete” shift to a low carbon economy by 2014 — or risk making dangerous climate change almost inevitable, a report has warned. The study for conservation charity WWF showed that waiting until after 2014 to fully develop the clean industries needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as renewable energy, would leave it too late to halt temperature rises of more than 2C.
With low-carbon industry only able to grow at a certain rate, a delay in taking action will make it almost impossible for countries to roll out the technology in time to cut emissions by the amounts needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The research by analysts Climate Risk also said countries must take action across a range of industries at once, including renewable energy, technology to capture the carbon emissions from fossil fuel power stations, preventing deforestation and improving energy efficiency.
If countries fail to tackle emissions across all sectors, they will end up getting the lowest-cost industries up and running first and not developing other areas until they are affordable. This would make it impossible to meet targets to reduce emissions, the study warned.

Support clean technology
The report, published as representatives of 17 countries meet in the UK for the Major Economies Forum as part of efforts to secure a new global agreement on cutting emissions at UN talks in Copenhagen in December, called for long-term investment strategies to support clean technology.
Policies are also needed to improve energy efficiency standards, pay people set tariffs for generating power from renewables and end subsidies for the use of fossil fuels.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “Clean industry sectors can only expand so far, so quickly.

“If we wait until later than 2014 to begin aggressively tackling the problem, we will have left it too late to ensure that all the low-carbon solutions required are ready to roll out at the scale needed if we intend to keep within the world’s remaining carbon budget. He said the report highlighted the need for a “complete industrial shift towards a low-carbon future” which must begin with a fair and binding deal on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

An over-reliance on carbon trading - which by putting a price on pollution encourages cutting emissions where it costs least - would lead to a step-by-step approach to developing a low carbon economy that would leave the world struggling to reduce emissions on a sufficient scale and speed to prevent climate change, the study said.
The report also said that, even without a price on carbon, renewable energy could become competitive with fossil fuels between 2013 and 2025.

Climate change deadlock
Meanwhile, developed and developing countries argue over their respective climate change duties. There is a way out of the deadlock. In the last few months, there have been several significant developments in international climate negotiations. In July, the leaders of the world’s major developed and developing countries made an unequivocal commitment to avoiding a global temperature rise greater than 2C relative to pre-industrial levels. More recently, there has been a marked shift in the positions of both China and India, who have announced that they will undertake new measures to limit the anticipated rapid growth of their national greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. And the United States, sensing an opportunity to build a new consensus to combat climate change, is pursuing bilateral agreements with both countries that it hopes will serve as stepping stones to a comprehensive global climate agreement.

While these developments are extremely positive, the fundamental problem of how to divide up necessary greenhouse gas reductions between developed and developing countries remains. And with the Copenhagen UN climate summit less than two months away, breaking this deadlock between the major developed and developing economic powers will be essential for progress towards the goal of forging a comprehensive global climate treaty.

The 2C target requires that cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents, do not exceed about 1,600 bn tons over the next four decades. Developing countries want national emissions allowances to be allocated on the basis of equity of per capita emissions. A realistic compromise that can break the deadlock is possible, based on a less strict version of the per capita emissions equity principle. The compromise, which we term “progressive convergence”, would involve developed countries agreeing to make an early start on emissions reductions and developing countries committing never to exceed the average per capita emissions of developed countries – a commitment that India in fact has indicated that it would be willing to make.

The net result will be a progressive convergence of nations to a declining per capita emission rate. To meet the 2C goal, the developed countries' reduction targets must be sufficiently stringent, but not so stringent as to be politically or economically unacceptable.

Developing economies such as Mexico and Brazil would commence reductions around 2040-2045. Per capita emissions in China would converge with the G8 around 2030, while India's per capita emissions would not converge until around 2050, owing to its much lower per capita emissions today and projections of smaller emission growth rate and continued increase in population through 2050. In this scenario, cumulative energy-related carbon dioxide emissions between 2010 and 2050 would total about 1,200bn tons, leaving about 400bn tons for non-energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. To keep these emissions below 400bn tons, complementary reductions in emissions from deforestation and land use change, as well as other greenhouse gases, will also be necessary. After 2050, emissions reductions will still be needed, but with all the major nations now on an equal per capita carbon footing.

* The report highlighted the need for a “complete industrial shift towards a low-carbon future” which must begin with a fair deal at Copenhagen.

* It also says that even without a price on carbon, renewable energy could become competitive with fossil fuels between 2013 and 2025.

* If countries fail to tackle emissions across all sectors, they will end up getting the low-cost industries up and running first.

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