The global community must take urgent action to speed deployment of clean-energy technologies and ramp up energy efficiency if the planet is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, says a new report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
Without aggressive policy action, global emissions of carbon dioxide are on track to rise by a third by 2020 and nearly double by 2050, which would raise global temperatures by a dangerous 6 degrees Celsius, said IEA Deputy Executive Director Ambassador Richard H Jones, in a statement on April 25.
“Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental and energy security hardships – a legacy that I know none of us wishes to leave behind,” he said.
Rapid technological change is possible, as is evidenced by the significant advancement in solar and wind installations in recent years, the report adds. The growth rate for onshore wind has averaged 27 percent annually during the last decade, and 42 percent for solar photovoltaic installations, while solar PV system costs have plummeted by as much as 75 percent over the last three years in some countries.
However, most other technologies that offer hope for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and capturing energy efficiency are not making fast enough progress to address the climate crisis, the report says.
Nearly half of all new coal-fired plants worldwide are being built with inefficient technology, and carbon-capture and storage technology is not attracting sufficient levels of investment to make large-scale demonstration projects feasible. Most of the energy efficiency potential in buildings remains untapped, and vehicle efficiency is advancing at a slogging pace globally, the report adds.
Nevertheless, the report asserts that the transition to a clean-energy economy is affordable and offers “tremendous business opportunities.” But governments must create policies that provide certainty for investors and remove barriers to technology deployment. “Private sector financing will only reach the levels required if governments create and maintain supportive business environments for low-carbon energy technologies,” the report says.
The report offers three policy recommendations to accelerate clean-energy deployment:
• First, level the playing field for clean energy technologies by ensuring that energy prices reflect the “true cost” of all energy resources – accounting for the positive and negative impacts of energy production and consumption;
• Second, unlock the potential of energy efficiency, the “hidden fuel” of the future. Avoiding energy waste and using energy in the most efficient way possible is the most cost-effective action and must be the first step of any policy aimed at building a sustainable energy mix’;
• Finally, accelerate energy innovation and public support for research, development and demonstration. This will help lay the groundwork for private sector innovation, and speed technologies to market.
Read IEA’s report: Tracking Clean Energy Progress