November 7, 2007 (Reuters) – The International Energy Agency on Wednesday painted a grim picture of a tough and urgent global challenge to avoid the “alarming” climate change implications of soaring energy demand in China and India.
The report suggested that restricting global climate change within safe limits, as defined by the European Union, may be out of reach, at least at an affordable price.
The IEA’s influential World Energy Outlook was published less than a month before nearly 200 countries meet in Bali, Indonesia, to try to launch two-year talks on a new, global deal to fight climate change.
“There has so far been more talk than action in most countries,” the IEA said.
“The consequences for China, India, the OECD (industrialised nations) and the rest of the world of unfettered growth in global energy demand are, however, alarming.”
The answers to spiralling energy demand and carbon emissions included energy efficiency and a switch to low carbon alternatives to fossil fuels such as renewable energy.
The IEA, energy adviser to 26 industrialised nations, said global carbon emissions would rise by 57 percent by 2030 on current trends, and was consistent with a long-term global temperature increase of 5-6 degrees centigrade, using recent U.N. estimates.
Even if governments implemented all climate-friendly policies under consideration carbon emissions would still rise by more than a quarter by 2030, implying a 3 degrees temperature hike.
Under such policies renewable energy would supply 17 percent of all energy needs by 2030, but still much less than coal.
Cutting carbon emissions below current levels, and keep climate change within EU-defined safety limits, would require “unprecedented” political action.
“Exceptionally strong and immediate policy action would be essential for this to happen and the associated costs would be very high,” the IEA said.
Some fossil fuel power plants would have to be retired early at a cost of $1 trillion, and electricity prices would be much higher, it said.
“Staggering” economic growth helping curb poverty in Asia’s economic tigers, and especially China and India, was most to blame for the expected surge in carbon emissions.
China alone was responsible for 58 percent of the increase in carbon emissions worldwide from 2000-2006.
Its contribution to global carbon emissions by 2030 would rise to more than a quarter from a fifth now, but per capita would still be less than half the United States’.
The IEA called for a “global response” to find energy solutions to make Asia’s economic growth more sustainable.
It confirmed a Reuters report earlier this year that China was on track to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest carbon emitter in 2007. It forecast India would overhaul Russia and become the world’s number three emitter by 2015. On current trends China would add by 2030 more power plants than are installed now in the United States, driving a bigger jump in the use of coal — the highest-carbon fossil fuel — than any other source of energy globally. The threat of diminished global energy security, as fewer countries tightened their grip on the world’s oil supplies, could help the climate change fight.
“Many of the policies available to alleviate energy insecurity can also help to mitigate local pollution and climate change, and vice-versa,” it said.