Peak in Global Emissions Possible by 2020


By MarEx 2015-06-15 20:37:08

A peak in global energy-related emissions could be achieved as early as 2020 and at no net economic cost, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Monday in its new World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Climate Change. 

The Agency showed how to achieve an early peak in emissions as one of four key pillars that it believes are needed to make the upcoming U.N. COP21 climate talks a success, from an energy perspective.

World greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and use are double the level of all other sources combined, meaning that action to combat climate change must come first and foremost from the energy sector. The IEA proposes that the following four key pillars are needed to make COP21 a success, from an energy perspective:

1.    Peak in emissions – set the conditions to achieve an early peak in global energy-related emissions.
2.    Five-year revision – review national climate targets regularly, to test the scope to raise ambition.
3.    Lock in the vision – translate the world’s climate goal into a collective long-term emissions goal.
4.    Track the transition – establish a process for tracking achievements in the energy sector.

“As IEA analysis has repeatedly shown that the cost and difficulty of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions increases every year, time is of the essence,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “It is clear that the energy sector must play a critical role if efforts to reduce emissions are to succeed. While we see growing consensus among countries that it is time to act, we must ensure that the steps taken are adequate and that the commitments made are kept.”

A peak in global energy-related emissions could be achieved as early as 2020 if governments implement just five key policy measures, as shown in the IEA’s “Bridge Scenario.” This major climate milestone is possible using only proven technologies and policies, and without changing the economic and development prospects of any region. Intended as an effective bridge to further action, the five measures focus on:

·      Increasing energy efficiency in the industry, buildings and transport sectors
·      Reducing the use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants and banning their construction
·      Increasing investment in renewable energy technologies in the power sector from $270 billion in 2014 to $400 billion in 2030
·      Gradual phasing out of fossil-fuel subsidies to end-users by 2030
·      Reducing methane emissions in oil and gas production

The report specifically mentions the international aviation and maritime sectors as major consumers of oil. Together they consumed around 7.0 million barrels per day of oil in 2013, eight percent of global oil demand. These sectors’ contribution to global emissions is on the rise. While they accounted for only four percent of global CO2 emissions growth between 1990 and 2013, they are expected to be among the fastest growing sectors over the next decades, states the report.

This does not mean that progress has been absent. Slow steaming has helped to reduce emissions growth in recent years (partially driven by high oil prices). Shipping has also been actively implementing other forms of mitigation including the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) mandatory for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, mandatory for all ships.

However, the report states that efforts to build a broader global framework so far have not materialized. “There are a number of policy options that could help curtail further emissions growth. They include regulatory instruments, such as fuel efficiency and emission standards at an aircraft/vessel or system level or regulations targeting the GHG intensity of fuels that could foster the deployment of low-carbon fuels, and market-based approaches.”
All these instruments require agreement at an international level, a long and difficult process. Although not explicitly part of the agenda of the UNFCCC negotiations, the upcoming COP21 meeting is an opportunity to take stock of progress in these key sectors in an attempt to boost collective efforts at the IMO, states the report.

Download the WEO Special Report on Energy and Climate Change here.