Rhein on Energy and Climate

Global green house gas emissions keep rising at an alarming pace despite the slow down of the global economy.

In 2011 global C02 emissions reached a new high of 34 billion tons, increasing by three per cent. There is no prospect for a rapid turn-around because of the rapid economic expansion of poor and emerging countries, which now account for more than half of global output. The three per cent decline of emissions in EU and Japan and, for the first time, a two per cent decline in the USA are not able to compensate the 9 per cent increase in China.

Three positive news offer a glimpse of hope for the future.

  • Saudi Arabia is realising that its oil and gas will not last eternally and should not be wasted for domestic electricity generation when there is plenty of cheap solar power around.
    It is therefore shifting its power supply towards solar. By 2032, it aims at generating about a quarter of its electricity from PV and solar-thermal power plants. Moreover, it nourishes dreams about a nuclear power capacity, but it is doubtful if these will ever see the day, as nuclear power will find it increasingly difficult to compete with solar or wind power. 

  • President Obama has designated his two new top officials for energy and climate policy, both of which are fully committed to sustainable energy production and consumption. Assuming their approval by the Senate the EU can look forward to a constructive cooperation on energy and climate policy with the second biggest emitter of C02. It should fully use that opportunity, both for bilateral and international work.
  • From March 1st 2013, the EU will apply stricter rules for controlling the origin of imported, especially tropical, timber. Hopefully, these will help forest countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia to step up their fight against illegal logging, which is a major cause of deforestation and climate change. But one should not expect any miracles from such cooperation. To be effective, the EU will have to offer technical support, e.g. by supplying drones for permanent surveillance of sensitive forest regions, and by improving the fight against corruption in the forest administration.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels

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