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IEA: Governments Not on Track for Paris Goals

Key Actions to Peak Emissions Around 2020


According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), governments can only reach the climate goals they set themselves at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last year if they drastically accelerate climate action and make full use of existing technologies and policies set out in the IEA’s own “Bridge Scenario”.

The IEA issued its warning at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, where governments are currently gathering to discuss ways to implement the historic Paris Agreement, including ways to ramp up immediate climate ambition to give the world a chance of staying under a maximum two degrees Celsius global average temperature rise – and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius – the goals agreed in Paris.

“The ambition to peak greenhouse gas emissions very soon is anchored in the Paris agreement, but we don’t see the actions right now to make this happen”, said Takashi Hattori, Head of the IEA’s Environment and Climate Change Unit. “At the same time, there are ‘GDP-neutral’ ways and means to get emissions to peak and then fall whilst maintaining economic growth, and that’s what we need to focus on.”

GDP-neutral means that a technology or policy does not negatively impact the economic growth of a country, and can actually contribute to the growth of that country.

A “Well below 2 degrees World” is Still Possible

In Bonn, Hattori presented IEA’s so-called “bridge scenario” involving the use of five tried and tested energy technologies and policies that can bridge the gap between what has been pledged by governments so far and what is required to keep the global average temperature to as low as 1.5 degrees Celsius as part of what the agency terms a “well below 2 degrees world”

As the chart below shows, the five key measures could achieve a peak in emissions around 2020. These are: energy efficiency, reducing inefficient coal, renewables investment, methane reductions and fossil-fuel subsidy reform.

Takashi Hattori also noted that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to energy policies. The greenhouse gas emissions reductions in line with the goal of the Paris Agreement goals can best be brought about with different technologies and policies adapted to the differing circumstances of the various regions of the world.

For example, the greatest potential to reduce emissions in the Middle East is through reducing fossil fuel subsidies, whilst the greatest potential in Europe, China and India is with the help of energy efficiency and in Russia through methane reductions, he said.

Mr Hattori says, however, that not just these five energy solutions but a host of other technologies and policies must be deployed at speed and scale for the world to reach the Paris Agreement goals, including for example smart grids, hydrogen as a fuel that can be generated with renewable sources of energy and smart agriculture.

A main hope of the IEA is that governments will above all make use of the five key energy options outlined in the bridge scenario not because of concerns over rising global temperatures, but because of the obvious co-benefits of climate action. For example, the concerns on the part of populations over air pollution in cities is greater than concerns about climate change.

The work of the IEA tallies with the work of government officials and other experts meeting at a series of UN Climate Change Conferences in Bonn, who have been discussing key policy options which have the greatest potential to immediately curb emissions. In the context of Technical Expert Meetings, governments have been looking closely at the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency, among other key focus areas, and are this week primarily focusing on sustainable transport and the social and economic value of carbon.

In addition, a Climate Action Fair which encompasses the activities related to immediate climate action by governments and all other stakeholders is taking place in Bonn, and is also vehicle to identify which policies and technologies have the best, immediate change of making a real impact on climate change.

For more information on the work of the IEA, see the IEA website

Pic: Agustin Ruiz (Flickr)