IEA: IPCC report emphasises urgency of global action

(Paris) — 2 February 2007

The International Energy Agency (IEA) welcomes the important and timely messages contained in the fourth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IEA believes these results highlight the urgent need for global co-ordinated action to address global warming and its effects.

The IEA's emissions projections to 2050, in a business-as-usual scenario, are consistent with the IPCC scenario leading to a global average temperature increase of 1.7 to 4.4 degrees C, with a best estimate at 2.8 degrees C. Energy-related CO2 emissions remain the core issue. The IEA estimates that under current policies, global emissions will increase 50% by 2030 and more than double by 2050. However, if we act now, this unsustainable and dangerous pattern can be curved. IEA findings also show that emissions could be returned to current levels by 2050 and even reduced thereafter, while an ever-growing demand for energy services, notably in developing countries, will be fully satisfied.

Improving energy efficiency in the major consuming sectors – buildings and appliances, transport and industry – must be the top priority. While alleviating the threat of climate change, such action also improves energy security, access to energy, economic effectiveness and well-being. The IEA estimates that 10% of global energy consumption could be saved by 2030 – roughly equivalent to China's entire consumption today – through existing technologies as well as energy efficiency policies currently under consideration by governments. Also, global CO2 emissions can be reduced by 16%, or 6.3 gigatonnes, through increased efficiency and fuel switching. About 80% of these CO2 savings are due to energy efficiency improvements. However, for long-term sustainability and security we need diversified energy supplies and a very sharp reduction in CO2 emissions to mitigate global warming.

There is no single solution. The world energy mix must combine greater energy efficiency improvements with more renewables, more nuclear energy and many more carbon capture and storage facilities to cap fossil fuel emissions, assuming that technological progress can make these solutions cost-effective and safe.

To foster the necessary changes, carbon emissions must be priced progressively throughout the global economy, while a great variety of policy instruments must be used to correct possible market imperfections. Funding for public and private research and development plus large demonstration plants is also in dire need. Greater emphasis on international technology collaboration – such as through the IEA network – is crucial to foster continued RD&D and information dissemination in the various technology fields.

IEA models suggest that returning to current emission levels by 2050 does not impose large costs to the economy as a whole, as fuel savings will largely cover the costs of the more expensive options to reducing emissions. Thus action can make economic sense.

Energy realities must be fully considered in the action to mitigate climate change. Concerns about unknown abatement costs and fears about constraints on economic development, particularly from developing countries, cannot be dismissed. Climate change negotiators will need to find ways and means to elaborate a framework for climate action that all major emitting countries could join.

The IEA will continue to suggest measures to this end and will provide new analysis in 2007 and 2008 to meet its mandate from the Group of Eight to formulate concrete recommendations on how to improve energy efficiency and develop effective alternative energy policies.

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