How to bridge the gap between words and action for a ‘well below 2 degrees’ world
Agreement reached at the climate talks at COP21 last year on climate goals called for drastic action.
Last week, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, the International Energy Agency (IEA), set out a plan involving the use of five tried and tested energy technologies and policies which it said “can bridge the gap between what has been pledged by governments so far and what is required to keep the global average temperature to as low as 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
“The ambition to peak greenhouse gas emissions very soon is anchored in the Paris agreement, but we don’t see the actions right now to make this happen,” said Takashi Hattori, Head of the IEA's Environment and Climate Change Unit. “At the same time, there are ‘GDP-neutral’ ways and means to get emissions to peak and then fall whilst maintaining economic growth, and that’s what we need to focus on.”
The term ‘GDP-neutral’ means that a technology or policy does not negatively impact the economic growth of a country, and can actually contribute to the growth of that country.
The five key measures that could achieve a peak in emissions around 2020, set out by the IEA, are: energy efficiency, reducing inefficient coal, renewables investment, methane reductions and fossil-fuel subsidy reform.
When it comes to energy policies, “one size does not fit all” noted Mr. Hattori. The greenhouse gas emissions reductions in line with the goal of the Paris Agreement goals can best be brought about with different technologies and policies adapted to the differing circumstances of the various regions of the world, he said.
For example, the greatest potential to reduce emissions in the Middle East is through reducing fossil fuel subsidies, whilst the greatest potential in Europe, China and India is with the help of energy efficiency and in Russia through methane reductions, he suggested.
The IEA says that not just these five energy solutions but a host of other technologies and policies must be deployed at speed and scale for the world to reach the Paris Agreement goals. These solutions include smart grids, hydrogen as a fuel that can be generated with renewable sources of energy and smart agriculture.
The Agency hopes that governments will make use of the five key energy options outlined in the bridge scenario not only because of concerns over rising global temperatures, but because of the obvious co-benefits of climate action. It says, “the concerns on the part of populations over air pollution in cities is greater than concerns about climate change.”
Government officials and other experts meeting at a series of UN Climate Change Conferences in Bonn have been discussing key policy options which have the greatest potential to immediately curb emissions.
With Technical Expert Meetings, governments have been looking closely at the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Last week they focused on sustainable transport and the social and economic value of carbon.
A Climate Action Fair is also taking place in Bonn, and is intended in part as a vehicle to identify which policies and technologies have the best, immediate change of making a real impact on climate change.
Business will be watching closely amid growing shareholder unrest about company policies around actions that affect the climate and consumers. Hundreds of documents uncovered by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) demonstrate that the oil industry, for example, was explicitly warned of climate risks in the 1960s.
Patent records published by CIEL reveal that companies such as Esso – the forerunner of ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)– researched and patented technologies for electric cars and low emissions vehicles as early as 1963 – but did not commercialize them.
Dina Medland is an independent writer, editor and commentator with a strong focus on issues around corporate governance, ethics, the workings of the boardroom and sustainable business. She is on the team of contributors to @ForbesEurope and is an ex-Financial Times staff member who has been a regular contributor in recent years. Further details about her background and a portfolio of work – including her commercially sponsored blog ‘Board Talk’ are available on her website http://www.dinamedland.com