No part for Pacific in energy revolution

By Cherelle Jackson in Poznan, Poland

POZNAN: 09 Dec 2008 – The energy sector in industrialised nations is responsible for 61% of current global CO2 emissions and the numbers will increase if nothing is done about it. Unfortunately, Pacific island countries have no choice but to await a decision by these same nations, as alone they are powerless to contribute in a meaningful way to global mitigation efforts.

According to Pawel Olejarnik, Research Analyst for the International Energy Agency (IEA), “In terms of relativity, the majority of work needed to reduce emissions from energy is going to have to be done in developed countries, Pacific countries have to make substantial limitations afterwards, but they are only going to mitigate and implement policy and measures.”

In 2007 the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) noted 383.71 parts per million (ppm) concentration of Co2 in the air, with energy emitting the bulk of it. This is a significant increase to the 280ppm estimated for 1870.

In June this year at the G8 meeting in Japan, the Leaders requested the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to come up with an analysis of the energy sector. The IEA was then assigned to produce the World Energy Outlook, which analyzed past trends and made concrete recommendations to the G8.

“Governments have been saying that these numbers need to go lower,” said Research Analyst for IEA, Mr. Pawel Olejarnik.

“The Outlook points to two scenarios, one where we aim for 450ppms which indicates a 2 degree Celsius maximum increase in temperature in the long term. This is possible but it requires an energy revolution,” Olejarnik said.

The IEA indicates that substantial investment is needed to modify the energy sector worldwide in order to meet the 450ppm target.

A suggested US$45 trillion is needed to implement cleaner technology measures and shift the existing face of the energy sector worldwide.

“It means stepping up research development and demonstration in technology such as second generation bio fuels, carbon capture and, of course, electrification of vehicles,” Olejarnik said.

The IEA suggests a large reduction in fossil fuels and a shift to greater dependency on renewable energy. It recommends that 40% of future energy be generated from renewables, which at present only accounts for close to 12 % globally.

“This is a huge jump, which means there’s going to be drastic measures, and we have to do it fast, the majority of improvement has to come through energy sufficiency which means private consumers and private businesses have to invest more into it,” Olejarnik said.

Asked about the role of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Olejarnik said the islands would likely have to wait for big decisions to be made by the big countries.

But the 450ppm generally agreed to by OECD countries has been criticised by organisations such as 350 Global Warming, Global Action, who says any estimation above 350 is too much.

“350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth,” the organisation states.

The Copenhagen meeting in December 2009 will determine the target emissions worldwide. Oonly time will tell whether the leading Governments will respond to the NGO call for 350ppm or the IEA call for 450ppm.