Confidence and collaboration key to sustainable future
In the run-up to the UN’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development next week two groups of researchers have come out with the perspective that, in their different ways, point to the lack of sufficient belief rather than a lack of means as the principle barrier to a more sustainable future.
In its soon to be published book, Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 (ETP 2012), the International Energy Agency (IEA) points to a host of new technologies that are ready to transform the energy system, offering the potential to drastically reduce carbon emissions, enhance energy security and generate a huge investment return – if only the right policies are put in place.
The Climate Group and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), meanwhile, will publish a report next week that paints China as being on the cusp of driving a new global ‘clean’ industrial revolution – provided China and international leaders have vision, grasp the urgency and are willing to collaborate.
With the European Union embroiled in an existential crisis, US politicians engaged in pre-election pettifogging and China’s Communist Party, less noisily, fighting its own leadership battle, this may seem a tall order. The darkest hour is, however, just before the dawn.
Call to action
"While our efforts to bring about a clean energy transformation are falling further behind, I want to stress the golden opportunity before us: If significant policy action is taken, we can still achieve the huge potential for these technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and boost energy security," IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said at the EPT 2012 launch.
"Now that we have identified the solution and the host of related benefits, and with the window of opportunity closing fast, when will governments wake up to the dangers of complacency and adopt the bold policies that radically transform our energy system? To do anything less is to deny our societies the welfare they deserve," she said.
The IEA says technological revolution will not be cheap, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. ETP 2012 presents an investment plan that more than pays for itself through fuel savings by 2025 and the savings would triple by 2050. It estimates that an additional USD36 trillion of investment would be required to overhaul the world's current energy system by the middle of the century, but this would be offset by USD100 trillion in savings through reduced use of fossil fuels.
The authors of the forthcoming Climate Group/CAS paper also identify the need for heavy investment in clean tech to create sustainable growth in China but say it can’t go it alone. They are calling on the G20 to collaborate on green growth.
“The report shows that for China a low carbon future is the only way forward if the country wants to sustain its economic growth and address its current environmental, social and energy security challenges,” said Mark Kenber, The Climate Group’s CEO.
“China is already shaping the world’s economy like no other country and has the power to drive a global clean industrial revolution – but it cannot do it alone. International co-operation is absolutely essential. It will take Chinese and international leadership, vision and grasp of the urgency of action to ensure a better, cleaner, more prosperous future for all.”
The report suggests that the re-design of China’s economy can be accelerated with more investment in innovation and renewable energy, increased funding and a drastic improvement of China’s internal carbon market structure.