Renewables Promoted in Final U.N. Assessment

Governments around the world will need to address various institutional, behavioral and other barriers before renewable energy and other solutions to climate change can realize their potential, according to a major report from a United Nations agency.

ACCRA, Ghana – The third and final report of the Working Group III of the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that many cost-effective solutions to rising greenhouse gas emissions are available now, but work must be done before they will be adopted. The comprehensive IPCC assessment is “a remarkable consensus and a sound basis for international decision-making,” says G.O.P. Obasi, secretary-general of World Meteorological Organization, which launched the IPCC with the UN Environment Program in 1988. Obasi urged governments to quickly consider a legislative framework to implement these cost-effective solutions to solve emissions problems. “This report moves us from a focus on the problem to a focus on the solution,” adds UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer. “The good news is that there are cost-effective policies and technologies available for cutting emissions; the bad news is that there are many barriers to rolling these out. We must figure out how to break down these barriers.” Experts in climate change and officials from 100 countries met in Africa to release the report, which notes that the choices countries choose to make about energy sources and associated investment will determine whether atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases can be stabilized and, if so, at what level and cost. It says most current investment is directed toward discovering and developing more fossil fuel resources, including conventional and unconventional resources. While changes in energy supplies will play a central role, the report says hundreds of technologies and practices for end-use energy efficiency in buildings, transportation and manufacturing account for half the potential for global emissions reductions from 2010 to 2020. Some studies also show that half of this potential can be realized by way of options that save money, but governments will need to adopt more supportive policies for these options to be implemented. “This report is essentially a road map on what could be done and what we’ve come up with is a set of costs, set of benefits in terms of reduction of greenhouse gases from a specific set of actions and measures,” explains Rajendra Pachauri, vice chair of the IPCC. “I think the time is long overdue when we should make a very serious attempt to shift to lower carbon-intensive fuels, which means much greater use of natural gas, much greater use of renewable forms of energy and also major efforts at improvement of efficiency of energy use.” “Economically and socially, it’s not all that expensive,” he says. “Politically, with the mindset that several of our leaders have, unfortunately it may be expensive. I would say if that’s expensive, change the leaders.” Without the benefit of an international emissions trading system, the report estimates that countries would incur costs of 0.2 to to 2 percent of their projected gross domestic product in 2010, which would drop to 0.1 to 1 percent with a full emissions trading system. The process of compiling the Third Assessment involved hundreds of writers and reviewers. The first report, released in January, confirmed stronger evidence for humanity’s influence on the global climate and projected that global temperatures would rise by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. The second report, released last month, detailed how this warming would effect communities around the world. Progress since 1995 on developing technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been faster than anticipated, explains the third report. Important advances have included the market introduction of efficient hybrid engine cars and wind turbines, the demonstration of underground carbon dioxide storage, the advance of fuel cell technology and the rapid elimination of industrial gases such as N20 emissions from adipic acid production and perfluorcarbons from aluminum production.

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