Greater ambition needed on energy decarbonisation ahead of COP21 - IEA

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National climate pledges so far submitted by countries ahead of the forthcoming COP21 talks fall short of the action needed to keep global warming within safe limits, the International Energy Agency claims.

A ‘World Energy Outlook’ special briefing published today by the IEA said greater ambition was needed by countries in cutting greenhouse gas emissions if temperature increases are to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius.

So far over 150 countries have submitted so-called ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs), the pledges of action that will form the basis of discussions at the COP21 summit in Paris in December.

The IEA said that together these pledges would reduce growth in energy-related emissions, which account for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, considerably by 2030.

But according to the agency’s analysis, they would be insufficient to change the current global trajectory, which is to overshoot the 2-degree warming limit within this century. The IEA said the INDCs should therefore be regarded as the minimum level of action countries are prepared to take.

“Pledges for COP21 will have a positive impact on future energy sector trends, but fall short of the major course correction required to achieve the agreed climate goal,” the report said.

“If climate ambition is not raised progressively, it is estimated that the path set by the INDCs would be consistent with an average global temperature increase of around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, falling short of limiting the increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. The INDCs must therefore be viewed as an important base upon which to build ambition.”

The IEA has already outlined a course of action that it says could achieve a peak in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 through a concerted investment push in renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency.

Its latest report acknowledged that many of theses measures are included within some of the submitted INDCs. “But there is scope for their adoption to be broadened and their level of ambition to be raised,” the report added.

The IEA said achieving the “ultimate climate goal” would require greater innovation in the energy sector and on the deployment of “new and emerging energy sector technologies that have the potential to deliver the transformational change”.

This echoes observations reported yesterday by PV Tech made by Sir David King on the need for a global ‘Apollo’ programme to boost clean energy research and development.

In an interview with PV Tech, Sir David said globally coordinated investment was required to help renewables such as solar make the final push towards competitiveness with fossil fuels.

He said he was hopeful that political discussions already underway and the momentum generated by the COP21 talks would result in an agreement on the proposed initiative, in which solar PV and storage would be a key focus.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, reiterated the importance of Paris in spurring the energy sector to take faster action on decarbonisation. “The energy industry needs a strong and clear signal from the Paris climate summit. Failing to send this signal will push energy investments in the wrong direction, locking-in unsustainable energy infrastructure for decades,” he said.

To browse our coverage of the build-up to COP21 and solar's role in tackling climate change, click here.

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