The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.
At United Nations climate talks in Barcelona last week negotiators from developed countries said the world would need an extra six to 12 months to agree a legally binding, global deal to cut carbon emissions beyond a planned December deadline.
The IEA, energy adviser to 28 industrialized countries, said the world must act urgently to put greenhouse gases on a track to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.
Every year’s delay beyond 2010 would add another $500 billion to the extra investment of $10,500 billion needed from 2010-2030 to curb carbon emissions, for example to improve energy efficiency and boost low-carbon renewable energy.
“Much more needs to be done to get anywhere near an emissions path consistent with … limiting the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees,” said the IEA’s 2009 World Energy Outlook. “Countries attending the U.N. climate conference must not lose sight of this.”
What needs to be done? See “Must-read IEA report explains what must be done to avoid 6°C warming” and “IEA report, Part 2: Climate Progress has the 450-ppm solution about right.”
Here’s more from today’s story:
U.N. talks meant to agree a deal in Copenhagen in December to extend or replace the existing Kyoto Protocol have struggled to overcome a rich-poor rift on how to split the cost of curbing carbon emissions, for example from burning fossil fuels.
Developed countries accept that they have to take the burden of cutting carbon emissions, but want developing nations to accept binding actions too under a new treaty.
Poor countries want financial help to implement carbon emissions cuts and prepare for unavoidable global warming, including droughts, floods and rising seas.
The IEA report estimated that the world needed to invest an extra $197 billion annually by 2020 to make the necessary emissions cuts in developing countries, compared with a global total of $430 billion by then.
“The Copenhagen conference will provide important pointers to the kind of energy future that awaits us,” it said.
To continue present trends of energy demand and burning of fossil fuels “would lead almost certainly to massive climatic change and irreparable damage to the planet,” it said.
To implement swinging carbon cuts, on the other hand, would require a huge shift in the world’s energy system.
That would raise, for example, the share of non-fossil fuels to 32 percent of total primary energy in 2030, from 19 percent in 2007. The share of the internal combustion engine in new car sales would fall to 40 percent by 2030 from more than 90 percent under current trends.
Increased droughts, floods and storms will hit China’s Yangtze River Basin over the next few decades, the result of rising temperatures globally, according to a report released Tuesday.
Climate change will trigger extreme weather conditions along the country’s longest river, but strategies can be taken to control it, said the report, issued by the environmental group WWF-China. The group was originally known as the World Wildlife Fund.
In the past two decades, the temperature in the river basin area has risen steadily, which has led to a spike in flooding, heat waves and droughts, the report said. It is the largest assessment yet on the impact of global warming on the Yangtze basin area, which is home to 400 million people.
Data collected from 147 monitoring stations along the 700,000-square-mile (1.8 million-square-kilometer) area showed temperatures rose by 0.59 degree Fahrenheit (0.33 degree Celsius) during the 1990s. Additional findings show that between 2001 and 2005, the basin’s temperature rose on average another 1.28 degrees Fahrenheit (0.71 degree Celsius).
“Extreme climate events such as storms and drought disasters will increase as climate change continues to alter our planet,” said Xu Ming, the lead researcher on the report, which included expert contributions from the China Academy of Sciences, the China Meteorological Administration and other academic institutions.
The report identifies key areas that will be affected: from agriculture to various ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, wetlands and coastal regions.
Crops such as corn, winter wheat and rice will see clear declines in production, with rice crops alone dropping between 9 percent to 41 percent by the end of the century, it said. Natural habitat such as grasslands and wetlands have receded steadily in recent years while rising sea levels triggered by global warming will make coastal cities such as Shanghai more vulnerable.
Countermeasures include strengthening existing infrastructure, such as river and dike reinforcements, transport and power supply systems, the report said. Other steps include adjusting cropping systems and switching to hardier strains.
“Adaptation is a must for large developing nations” such as China, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its large population and relatively low economic development, said James Leape, director general of WWF-International.
“The report is a reminder that while the whole world rises to meet the challenge of climate change, we must prepare for impacts that are already inevitable,” he said.
The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.
The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.
In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.
Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.
JR: This is an odd story, since EIA joined the peak oil camp over a year ago:
- 8/09: World’s top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery, urges immediate action: “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us.”
- 12/08: Normally staid IEA says oil will peak in 2020
- 7/08: “IEA warns of impending oil and gas supply crunch“: “Despite four years of high oil prices, this report sees increasing market tightness beyond 2010, with OPEC spare capacity declining to minimal levels by 2012.”
The United States hopes to reach agreement with China during President Barack Obama’s visit on how to record and monitor countries’ efforts to fight global warming, a top State Department official said on Tuesday.
The comments by Robert Hormats, undersecretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs, offered some insight into the types of deals Obama will be hoping to strike when he visits China next week.
Obama told Reuters in an interview on Monday that Washington and Beijing needed to work together on the big issues facing the globe, and that climate change would be a key part of his November 15-18 trip to Shanghai and Beijing.
Hormats held out the likelihood of concrete deals on energy cooperation and global warming, with an eye to ensuring the two powers have more common ground when they go into key global talks on the issue in Copenhagen next month.
“I think we need out of this visit real progress on climate change, … how we can record internationally the kind of things we’re doing domestically and how we can follow up and monitor one another for what we’re doing,” Hormats, the State Department’s top economic official, told university students in Beijing.
China is considered the world’s biggest annual emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas from human activity.
The global financial crisis has led to a dangerous drop in energy investment around the world which could choke off the nascent economic recovery, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.
The warning from the Paris-based agency comes just a month ahead of the major UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where world leaders hope to agree on so-called climate finance to help developing countries cut emissions by switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy such as wind and solar.
The EU has said that there should be a euro100 billion ($150 billion) annual package of public and private finance by 2020 to help poorer nations develop green industries and adapt to climate change.
The IEA, a policy adviser to 28 mostly industrialized oil-consuming nations, estimates that the financial and economic crisis is responsible for a $90 billion drop in global oil and gas investment this year, a 19 percent cut from 2008.
“Falling energy investment will have far-reaching and, depending on how governments respond, potentially serious consequences for energy security, climate change and energy poverty,” the IEA said in its annual World Energy Outlook report.
The resulting drop in oil and electricity supplies could “undermine the sustainability of the economic recovery,” the IEA warned.
Britain set out plans Monday to speed up the planning process for big wind farms and new nuclear power plants and named 10 sites where reactors could be built.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said new nuclear plants, combined with cleaner coal plants and more renewable energy, would help Britain to secure its energy supplies and cut its greenhouse gas emissions.
About 20 percent of Britain’s electricity was generated from existing nuclear power reactors in the second quarter of 2009, but all except one of them is due to shut by 2025.
Previous attempts to build new nuclear plants have been delayed by the exhaustive planning process. It took six years and cost 30 millions pounds ($50.33 million) to secure planning consent to build the Sizewell B reactor in southern England.
Under the new proposals, decisions on plants bigger than 50 megawatts, or 100 megawatts for offshore wind, will be cut to one year.
“The current planning system is a barrier to this shift (to low carbon),” Miliband said.
“It serves neither the interests of energy security, the interests of the low carbon transition, nor the interests of people living in areas where infrastructure may be built, for the planning process to take years to come to a decision.”
The list of possible new nuclear power stations includes Kirksanton, a site in Cumbria, northern England, proposed by German utility RWE which is not close to any existing nuclear facilities and overlaps a small wind farm.
The government rejected EDF Energy’s Dungeness power station on the south coast of England as a possible site for new reactors because of environmental and flooding concerns.
But it approved EDF sites at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk where the French energy giant plans to build four reactors.
“It means we can prepare to take the next steps in our plan for a multi-billion pound investment in the UK,” EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz said in a statement.
“It is in the public interest for the UK to build at least 15 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity which would be sufficient to meet at least 30 percent of our electricity demand by 2030.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Tuesday for the U.S., China and India to make substantive pledges of action against global warming in order to prevent the failure of next month’s climate summit in Copenhagen.
“A failure of the world climate conference in Copenhagen would set back international climate policy by years,” Merkel said in a speech to parliament outlining her new government’s agenda. “We cannot afford that.”
Merkel said the European Union has put forward a clear position on fighting climate change, and “we now expect contributions from the USA and countries such as China and India.”
“A substantial political agreement is essential and the condition for an internationally binding … protocol for the time after 2013,” she said.