x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Drastic shift in energy consumption needed to reduce carbon emissions

World cannot go on consuming energy like it does now if we want to limit global temperature increases to 2C above pre-industrial levels, experts say

Global carbon emissions will have to peak by 2020 and then reduce at three per cent every year if we are to reach zero emissions by the end of the century, said energy experts.

This level of emission reduction is what is required to limit temperature increases to 2C above pre-industrial levels, they say.

“This will need complete decarbonisation within the coming decade,” said Dr Hoesung Lee, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Energy efficiency needs to drastically increase, enough to restrain the energy demand increase.”

The immediate task at hand is to assess the impact of global warming of 1.5C, as was stipulated at the Paris agreement in 2015.

“We will list the outcome of this assessment in October next year,” Dr Lee said. “Countries wanted to know the climate impact of 1.5C warming and greenhouse gas mitigation pathways compatible with that warming before they go to the negotiating table for the first ever facilitative dialogue they plan next year.”

It has been three years since the IPCC came to the conclusion that emissions had to peak by 2020 then reduce by three per cent annually thereafter.

“The probability of achieving this goal under this emission reduction pathway is estimated to be better than two in three chances,” Dr Lee said. “For this to happen, electricity production needs a complete decarbonisation within a few decades. And this carbon-neutral electricity needs to dominate as a primary energy resource for all end-use energy consumption.”

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He said energy efficiency needed to drastically increase, enough to contain the increase in demand for energy.

The scientific community is clearly stating that patterns of consumption cannot continue as normal if goals are to be met.

“There is no basis for being optimistic or pessimistic about particular climate change goals,” Dr Lee said. “We plan to produce in the next three years three reports for the 1.5C warming, for land and for oceans. Then we’ll produce a methodology report on greenhouse gas inventories and release our three-assessment report by 2022 on science mitigation.”

Nobuo Tanaka, chairman of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and former executive director of the International Energy Agency, said Japan’s emissions were growing. “So it [Japan] is no longer a model country in terms of emissions and energy efficiency,” he said. “This is mainly after the shutdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.”

Maintaining a portfolio of technologies will be crucial. “The world does not have the luxury to pick and choose particular technologies,” Dr Lee said. “So all technologies need to be given a fair chance. With nuclear, public acceptance is a very important element and we think that there is technical and economic feasibility for it in the future but the public is a key factor for the configuration. We need to have an open mind.”