Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hope in the Face of the Fastest Ever Rise in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Despite 20 years of climate negotiations global warming causing greenhouse gases (GHGs) from energy are now rising at record setting levels. As reported in the Guardian, UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, indicated that we are experiencing the fastest-ever rise in greenhouse gas emissions, but she added that the data should not lead people to believe that the problem is impossible to tackle.

"This is the inconvenient truth of where human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are projected to go without much stronger international action now and into the future." But Figueres added, "I won't hear that this is impossible. Governments must make it possible for society, business and science to get this job done."

Estimates from the International Energy Agency, reveal that despite government policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gases the 2010, global emissions from energy were 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, compared with 29Gt in 2009 and 29.3Gt in 2008.

Three quarters of the emissions rise came from developing countries, with a quarter from the developed world. Although most of the record rise in emissions came from rapidly emerging economies, including China, there is growing evidence that the west has "exported" billions of tonnes of its emissions by relying on imports from the developing world.

The developing world is simply using the developed world for more of its energy intensive manufacturing. This is the finding in research being conducted by Sir David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise at the University of Oxford and former chief scientific advisor to the UK government. Similar results were also revealed in studies from the Carbon Trust and others.

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA and one of the world's foremost experts on energy and climate, said: "Unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to achieve the global goal agreed [at the last UN climate change conference in December] in Cancún."

Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's climate chief, said: "One wonders how many more worrying figures the world needs. The promises of world leaders at Copenhagen and Cancún to stay below 2C of warming need urgently to be followed by more action."

Hedegaard said the EU had put in place strong policies that had reduced emissions, and said other countries should follow. In 2008-10, emissions from EU heavy industry fell by more than 8%, in part owing to the recession and in part to climate policies. Hedegaard said: "We in Europe have specific policies, binding targets and a price on carbon. Europe has committed to an ambitious agenda of climate action. We look to our partners to do likewise.''

Hedegaard insisted there were reasons to be optimistic, "Countries, including the biggest economies, are moving forward with new policies that promote low-carbon prosperous growth, even if they don't always attach climate labels to these policies. And the private sector continues to increase its investment in low-carbon business and renewable energy and wants to do more."

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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