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Door to Achieving Climate Objectives Is Rapidly Closing

Renewable Energy

International Energy Agency

International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven called on countries to step up efforts to avert climate change Dec. 6, noting that to do so requires addressing their energy security concerns in a sustainable manner. Describing the limited progress that is expected at United Nations (U.N.) climate talks as a "cause for concern," Ms. Van der Hoeven urged countries not to wait for a comprehensive deal on climate, but rather to act now to meet growing demand for energy with secure, low-carbon solutions.

The IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook, released in November, sent a stark message to the participants at the COP 17 climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa by concluding that the world is locking itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system. If bold policy actions are not put in place over the next several years, it will become increasingly difficult and costly to meet the goal set at last year’s talks of limiting a global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.

"The door to achieving our objectives is rapidly closing, and while I strongly urge an agreement on emissions, I have a simple message for the participants in these talks—Don’t wait for a global deal. Act now. You can and should implement robust policies that will give your citizens affordable, reliable access to energy in a sustainable way," Ms. Van der Hoeven told a press conference at the climate talks in Durban.

The IEA executive director noted that the IEA has identified many policy tools that countries can use to both enhance their energy security and reduce carbon emissions. Such tools include:

  • Standards on energy-using equipment such as cars or electric appliances
  • Cost-effective measures to deploy renewables, with care given to their impact on security of supply and
  • A price on carbon, including through tradeable CO2 emissions quotas, used in the E.U. and Australia, and actively being promoted in China and elsewhere

Ms. Van der Hoeven also said that while industrialized nations have already pledged USD 100 billion for low-carbon investments in emerging economies, financing remains a key challenge. But the big emerging economies—the so-called BRICs that include Brazil, Russia, India and China—can and should implement sound policies that tap domestic funding sources and direct them to low-carbon investments that promote energy security. The IEA can help governments in this area. On a related issue, she noted that achieving universal access to modern energy services would have huge economic, social and health benefits without significantly affecting CO2 emissions globally. IEA member countries are actively supporting efforts towards broader energy access.

Finally, she noted that while the focus has been for years on how energy will affect climate, it is time to begin studying how changes in climate will affect energy systems and, by extension, energy security.

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