Pledges on greenhouse gas emissions made ahead of landmark climate talks in December will result in a dramatic slowdown in the growth of carbon from the energy sector – but will not reverse it within the next 15 years, the world’s energy watchdog said on Wednesday (21 October).
The International Energy Agency (IEA), regarded as the gold standard on energy data, found that the pledges would result in an increase of 3.7 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide from 2014 to 2030, which is only one-third of the increase in energy emissions seen in the last 15 years.
Gas use will rise, while coal and oil decline, the agency predicts. By 2030, the annual growth in energy-related emissions worldwide will slow to just 0.5% a year, in its forecast, if the pledges are followed through, leaving total energy emissions at 42Gt in 2030.
But, the analysis found, even if annual energy-related emissions are barely growing by 2030, they will still be substantial, and halting their growth is “a critical and urgent milestone to achieving the global climate goal” of limiting warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA , said: “The energy industry needs a strong and clear signal from the Paris climate summit. Failing to send this signal will push energy investments in the wrong direction, locking in unsustainable energy infrastructure for decades.”
Meeting the pledges will require investment of about $13.5tn in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies by 2030, or about $840bn on average for each of those years.
Birol said the fact that so many countries – representing about 90% of the global economy – had published their pledges, known as Intended National Direct Contributions or INDCs in UN jargon, was “in itself remarkable” and would help “build political momentum” for a deal in Paris.
However, in the latest round of talks aimed at clearing the way for a new global climate change agreement post-2020 in Paris, the messages were mixed.
Governments are meeting in Bonn for the last official days of negotiating time scheduled before the two weeks of Paris talks begin at the end of November. The French hosts and the UN see it as essential to get as much of an agreement as possible agreed in advance of the start of Paris, in order to have the final days run smoothly and produce a deal.
Central to that is slimming down the text of an agreement, which earlier this year stood at an unwieldy 90-plus pages.
That was reduced by the co-chairs to about 20 pages, but at this week’s talks parts of it have ballooned again as countries try to re-insert their favoured language or issues they feel have been sidelined. As a result, the text quickly nearly doubled in size, and countries are now trying to prevent further rises and slim down the crucial document once more.
Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called on the negotiators to use the final hours to build bridges and make compromises. “Countries need to move past just re-proposing their well-known national positions, and start working hard to craft bridging proposals on as many issues as possible. On crunch political issues where agreement can’t be reached here in Bonn, negotiators need to craft limited sets of clear options for ministers to grapple with in advance of or during Paris.”
As negotiators filed off into rooms to try to wrangle over aspects of the text in smaller groups, in an effort to get the progress required, some NGOs were furious that they were excluded from these spin-off negotiating groups, saying that their expertise could help countries reach agreement.
Amid concerns over sluggish progress at the negotiations, on the fringes there was also significant activity.
A group of more than 20 business associations, representing more than 100,000 companies from around the world, wrote an open letter to Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, to call for carbon markets and the provision of international links among such markets to be re-included in the draft text of the agreement, which at present is scant on the subject.
The groups included some with numbers of members dependent on fossil fuels or which have raised objections to carbon regulation in the past, including the Business Council of Australia, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Edison Electric Institute, the Federation of German Industries and BusinessEurope.
However, a campaign called Kick Big Polluters Out called for all businesses with fossil fuel interests to be removed from the policymaking process, accusing corporate lobbyists of acting like those who advised the tobacco industry decades ago.
Separately, the OECD produced a report showing that emissions per unit of GDP had fallen since the 1990s in almost all of the world’s biggest economies, developed and developing.
Taxes on energy are gradually being changed to reflect the carbon contents of fuel in these countries, but taxes have to date been “insufficient to spur technological change or significantly alter consumer behaviour”, the thinktank warned. In addition, it noted, public spending on research and development in energy remains low.