The Longer We Wait, the More Expensive Carbon and Fossil Fuel Reduction Becomes

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IEA World Energy Report 2010 Logo

According to a new report -- “World Energy Outlook 2010” from the International Energy Agency (IEA) -- in order to keep global temperature from rising beyond 2°C (3.6°F), emission reduction pledges made in the Copenhagen Accord are inadequate and will increase reduction costs by $1 trillion. The report states that 2020 emission commitments are much too weak, making the required decline in climate change pollution more expensive in later years as countries must dramatically ratchet down emissions to achieve the 2°C goal.

The 2°C limit in temperature rise above pre-industrial levels is widely accepted by scientists as the temperature boundary the planet should not surpass.  It's also the temperature limit accepted by countries that agreed to the Copenhagen Accord.

According to Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the IEA, “[w]e must act now to ensure that climate commitments are interpreted in the strongest way possible and that much stronger commitments are adopted and taken up after 2020, if not before. Otherwise, the 2°C goal could be out of reach for good”

Currently, countries are meeting in Cancun for the annual climate change summit (prequel to Copenhagen) to discuss the Copenhagen Accord and other important actions for reducing climate change emissions.

Other major conclusions from the report include:

  • Government support for renewables is essential for transforming the energy market. The potential for renewable energy is huge, but its ability to rapidly expand as an energy source will heavily depend on the support of governments. Government resources can fuel technological advances and make renewables cost competitive. According to the report’s energy outlook for 2035, total primary energy demand from renewables will double to 14%. However, in order to keep temperatures below the 2°C threshold, renewables and nuclear would have to double their projected combined energy share to 38%.
  • Fossil fuels subsidies are causing harmful market distortions, hindering the decline in energy use of dirty fuels. Globally, in 2009, fossil fuel subsidies totaled $312 billion. According to Tanaka, “[g]etting the prices right, by eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies, is the single most effective measure to cut energy demand in countries where they persist, while bringing other immediate economic benefits.”

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