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A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) says worldwide pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will fail to meet a goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius – 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – by the end of the 21st century.
In its report “Energy and Climate Change” issued June 15, the IEA said the countries’ pledges, as they now stand, would fail to achieve a peak in emissions by the 2030 target date, leading to an overall rise in temperature by 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2100.
A rise of 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels is the limit that climate scientists say is needed to prevent increased flooding, storms and rising sea levels.
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At their meeting in Bonn on June 7-8, the Group of Seven leading industrialized democracies, or G-7, discussed plans to reach an international deal organized by the United Nations to be agreed upon in December. But the meeting ended after having made little progress on maintaining the 2-degree cap by the end of the century.
In fact, the IEA report concluded, the pledges – ?or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – submitted to the U.N., and the current policies of countries that have yet to submit such pledges, leave an even chance that the global temperature will rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2040, a mere eight months later than if there were no international effort to limit emissions.
“If stronger action is not forthcoming after 2030, the path in the INDC scenario would be consistent with an average temperature increase of around 2.6C by 2100 and 3.5C after 2200,” the IEA report said. It recommended that governments set conditions that will ensure emissions peak earlier, and that they revisit these commitments every five years to make sure they’re on track.
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And while the target date for the peak in emissions is 2030, the IEA said emissions from oil and coal could come a decade earlier, by 2020, then begin to decline, but only if governments began phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels and banned outright the construction of new coal-fired power generators. It said this could be achieved without any negative effect on the economy of any region.
Nevertheless, it’s necessary to act quickly, Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s executive director, is quoted as saying in the agency’s report. “As IEA analysis has repeatedly shown that the cost and difficulty of mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions increases every year, time is of the essence,” she said.
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Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist who will succeed van der Hoeven on Sept. 1, agreed at a London news conference on June 15. “The challenge is stern, but a credible vision of the long-term decarbonization of the sector is available,” he said. “The world must quickly learn to live within its means if this generation is to pass it on to the next with a clear conscience.”
Birol said if countries stick to their current pledges, emissions would reduce three times more quickly than they would otherwise. With forward-looking policies, he said, there is no need to develop new methods to cut carbon emissions. Already, he said, there is “huge potential” to boost efficiency with such simple rules as banning inefficient household appliances such as energy-guzzling washing machines and refrigerators.
But the key is drawing up such policies in the first place, and the authors of the IEA report appear skeptical that most countries will put those practices in place.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com