Opinion: Recession creates opportunity for UN climate change negotiators?
The economic crisis of the past 18 months has destroyed jobs and made money far tighter for business and citizens, but it could also result in a 3% drop in destructive greenhouse gas emissions this year and help pave the way for a green energy revolution.
That ray of optimism in tough economic times was released last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to prompt negotiators to hammer out a new, strengthened post-Kyoto agreement on global emissions when they meet in Copenhagen in December.
The IEA report said the 3% decline — a drop steeper than any other in the past four decades — is the result of the deferral of some energy investments. The decrease will also lead to global emissions in 2020 being 5% lower than the level the IEA estimated just one year ago.
As a result, the report continues, there is a possibility that greenhouse gas emissions could stabilise at 450 parts per million of CO₂-equivalent, limiting an increase in global temperature to a manageable 2 degrees Celsius.
“This gives us a chance to make real progress towards a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly,” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka.
“The message is simple and stark: if the world continues on the basis of today’s energy and climate policies, the consequences of climate change will be severe. Energy is at the heart of the problem – and so must form the core of the solution.”
A different report last week highlighted the likelihood of conventional oil production peaking before 2030, with a significant risk of a peak before 2020.
Published by the UK Energy Research Centre, the report warns that the UK government is not alone in being unprepared for such an event — despite oil supplying a third of the world’s energy.
The report says oil will become more expensive as resources are harder to find and exploit.
“Given the world’s overwhelming dependence upon oil and the time required to develop alternatives, 2030 isn’t far away,” said the report’s chief author, Steve Sorrell.
In highlighting these two important reports, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) believes the conclusions serve to remind politicians planning our collective carbon-free future of the huge role wind power can play, both onshore and offshore.
Onshore wind is already a proven, mature industry capable of providing increasing amounts of sustainable, affordable green electricity that can reduce the ravages of global warming caused by 150 years of burning fossil fuels.
Offshore wind, still in its relative infancy, can further supply Europe’s growing energy needs while easing the considerable burden of escalating climate change. This is especially true if politicians quickly agree on building a European grid that can funnel the amazingly abundant power unleashed by near-ceaseless winds blowing over the European seas.
A renewable energy revolution is attainable but national and international leaders must work fast and cooperatively on many fronts to make it become a reality.
After all, wind power is already doing its share to promote a cleaner tomorrow and, with continued political support, it will do even more.
Bruce Douglas, COO of EWEA