Action on energy to improve climate security

Governments must fully implement current climate commitments to avoid a further escalation in the economic and environmental costs associated with the transition to a more sustainable energy future, says IUCN.

Solar panels shown here of the 40kw grid-connected solar pv system installed at the Motofuoua Secondary School, Vaitupu, Tuvalu Photo: Anare Matakiviti

Following weaker commitments than expected at the United Nation’s climate change negotiations in Copenhagen last year, costs to transform the energy sector to keep global warming below the key 2oC target have been raised by at least US$1 trillion, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recently released World Energy Outlook (2010).

“Without stronger commitments, energy supply and demand will transform less slowly, thereby exacerbating greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with energy production,” says Juan Marco Alvarez, IUCN Director for Environmental Economy and Governance. “IUCN supports an urgent call for real action to ensure a more economically viable, socially equitable and ecologically sustainable energy future.”

The World Energy Outlook focused on the effects of fossil fuel subsidy reform – equivalent to US$312 billion in 2009.

“Governments must overcome the hurdles to phasing out such subsidies, thereby improving energy, climate and economic security,” says Nadine McCormick, IUCN’s Energy Network Coordinator. “ If all Copenhagen commitments are met, the need to find and develop new sources for oil – including environmentally and resource intensive alternative fuels, such as tar sands, could be avoided.”

Subsidy reform will help, but renewable energy developments are also frequently held up by environmental concerns.

“IUCN and its members are working to ensure that society has the required knowledge to make informed decisions around acceptable trade-offs to speed up renewable energy developments in the right places,” adds McCormick.

Some 1.4 billion people – equivalent to one fifth of the global population – do not have access to modern energy sources, and 2.7 billion people – or 40% of the global population – depend on traditional biomass sources such as firewood for cooking.

“What we need to see is a Cancun call to action on energy poverty,” adds Alvarez. “Governments must act now to create an environment in which energy decision can be made that provide power to meet the increasing demand of those living on the planet while at the same time respecting the planet we live on.”

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