Rhein on Energy and Climate

Humanity is lost in a fatal inconsistency.

At the very moment when the COP 19 in Warsaw is supposed to define the path towards a low-emission future that would prevent global temperatures from rising beyond two centigrade, the IEA “2013 World Energy Report” projects global energy demand to increase from 13 billion tons oil equivalent in 2011 to 17.4 billion tons in 2035, 60 per cent of which to be covered by fossil sources.

This implies squaring a circle! From a climate perspective, Humanity will either have to completely cover its supplementary demand by renewable and nuclear sources or avoid it by more energy saving and efficiency. Neither is very realistic until 2035.

The supplementary demand will come exclusively from emerging countries, in particular China, India and the rest of Asia. European and US demand will stagnate, due to saturation and higher energy efficiency. But that is not good enough either; it will have to decrease to set an example to emerging countries.

The EIA rightly underlines the need to step up measures for higher energy efficiency and the abolition of subsidies on fossil energy in both developed and emerging countries. Unfortunately, it has no clout over its member countries, let alone the rest of the world. Not even the EU has completely abolished subsidies on coal!

It should be up to the UN to pass the message to its 200 member countries in Warsaw and monitor its impact. But the COP 19 are largely involved procedural discussions without a bearing on climate realities.

Will the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon tell the heads of government at the summit meeting in the autumn of 2014 what they ought to do?

What must happen before governments awake to the relentless advance of climate change?

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 18/11/2013

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