Energy officials see little hope for climate talks

The report warns that time is quicky running out to limit global temperature increases to 2 decrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which many advocates call necessary to avoid dangerous climatic changes.

Limiting increases to 2 degrees is the goal of the United Nations-hosted talks.

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In Durban last year, negotiators agreed to try and reach a deal with “legal force” in 2015 that would take effect in 2020.

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, said at the event Tuesday that he sees “no momentum” on climate, noting that prospects for a legally binding global agreement are currently a “stretch.”

He said climate change is “slipping off the policy radar screen.”

According to the IEA, the tipping point for 2 degrees is approaching in five years.

The 2012 World Energy Outlook states that “almost four-fifths of the CO2 emissions allowable by 2035 are already locked-in by existing power plants, factories, buildings, etc.”

But the agency’s analysts also see a ray of light, noting that a more aggressive deployment of energy efficiency technologies could keep the door open to limiting the rise to 2 degrees for a few years longer.

“Rapid deployment of energy-efficient technologies — as in our Efficient World Scenario — would postpone this complete lock-in to 2022, buying time to secure a much-needed global agreement to cut greenhouse-gas emissions,” the report states.

Birol, speaking Tuesday, warned that current policies will bring large temperature increases with “devastating effects.”

“With the current policies, global temperature is set to increase 6 degrees Celsius ... close to 6 degrees Celsius,” he said. “This will have devastating effects for everybody.”

He said one important policy will be improved efforts to combat fossil fuel subsidies. A summary of the IEA report notes that global fossil fuel subsidies rose to $523 billion in 2011, more than six times the amount of subsidies for renewable energy.

“The cost of fossil-fuel subsidies has been driven up by higher oil prices; they remain most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, where momentum towards their reform appears to have been lost,” the IEA report states.

The IEA is a Paris-based energy security and cooperation organization for 28 nations, including the United States.