11 November 2011

South Africa: IEA Warns of Irreversible Climate Change in Five Years If Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Remains Unchanged

press release

In a new study launched Wednesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA), weeks ahead of the Durban Climate Change talks, scientists warn that if the current trend to build high-carbon generating infrastructures continues, the world's carbon budget will be swallowed up by 2017, leaving the planet more vulnerable than ever to the effects of irreversible climate change.

According to the IEA's World Energy Outlook, today's energy choices are likely to commit the world to much higher emissions for the next few decades. The current industrial infrastructure is already producing 80% of the world's "carbon budget".

The report estimates that global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2010. Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400bn (£250.7bn).

The IEA warns of a "lock in" effect; whereby high-carbon infrastructures built today contribute to the old stock of emissions in the atmosphere, thus increasing the danger of runaway climate change.

According to the report, there are few signs to suggest that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is under way.

As the world gears up towards the Durban talks later this month and Rio+20 in seven months, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) plans to launch a new report on 23 November 2011 that reviews the latest data on the gap between commitments by nations to reduce their emissions and the actual emissions reductions required to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees C. The report also tackles the question - How can the gap be bridged?

The new report is a follow up to "Bridging the Gap", which was launched last December and became a key benchmark for the international climate negotiations in Cancun.

UNEP will also launch on 25 November a study that will outline the measures and costs of reducing black carbon and non-CO2 gases to slow climate change. The new UNEP report outlines a package of 16 measures which could reduce global warming, avoid millions of premature deaths and reduce global crop yield losses by tackling black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone - substances known as short-term climate forcers.

The report demonstrates that half of these measures can deliver net cost savings over their lifetime, for example, from reduced fuel consumption or the use of recovered gas.

Copyright © 2011 United Nations Environment Program. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.