Climate Change Opportunity to Boost Economies – European Vision

[This re-post of an article showing countries moving to renewable energy to create jobs and reduce dependence on expensive, polluting and climate destroying fossil fuels. — Stephen]

By Stephen Leahy

BONN, Jun 20, 2011 (IPS)

If we’re lucky, by the time a tough but fair international treaty to meet the climate change challenge is finalised, it will be largely unnecessary. The snail’s pace of negotiations certainly gives countries plenty of time to understand the financial, social and environmental advantages of kicking their dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.

That may be a cynical optimist’s hope, but the European Union is already moving in that direction.

Climate change is now seen as an opportunity to deal with the economic downturn in Europe,” said Jürgen Lefevere, a European Commission negotiator at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiating session that ended late Friday in Bonn.

“It is no longer just an environmental issue for us,” Lefevere said at a final press conference.

China also understands the opportunity.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar now account for 11.4 percent of China’s electricity, and that figure will be 20 percent by 2020, says Liu Qiang, a researcher at the Energy Research Institute of the National Development Reform Commission, China.

“China takes this very seriously,” Qiang said, noting that there are significant investments and research in smarter electrical grids and energy storage in China.

Looking to 2050, the era of fossil fuels will be over in a world of vibrant economies and societies powered entirely by clean, cheap and renewable energy, says Niklas Hoehne, director of Energy and Climate Policy at Ecofys, an energy consulting company based in the Netherlands.

“The cost is about two to three percent of global GDP (gross domestic product) from now until 2035, and then the costs decline,” said Hoehne, a co-author of the Ecofys technical study called “The Energy Report“, which demonstrates how the world could reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

That investment is far less than the costs of climate change will be without major reductions in emissions, he told IPS.

 

It seems that few nations at these climate negotiations understand the full extent of the calamity the human species and planet face. Negotiators from 190 nations spent the last two weeks attempting to work out the details for an international agreement to be presented to government ministers at the 17th Conference of the Parties under the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa in late November.

They made some progress on technical issues but it seems unlikely there will be a new international treaty for some years yet.

“If developed countries don’t increase their reduction targets to 40 percent by 2020 without offsets, they are risking five [degrees] C of warming and a planetary emergency,” said Asad Rehman, head of the International Climate programme at Friends of the Earth.

At five C, Africa will burn and low-lying areas where hundreds of millions live will be underwater, representatives of civil society reminded delegates time and again. And it is likely even worse than that. Human civilisation has arisen and thrived during a time of little change in global temperature. The current temperature increase of 0.8 degrees C is only about half of what is now guaranteed even if all emissions ended today.

Even a 1.5 to 2.0 C temperature rise puts humanity effectively on a new planet, with a different climate than we have prospered in. Additional warming not only further threatens that prosperity it bring us far too close to the nightmare scenario of runaway climate change that will threaten our very survival, experts warn.

No developed country is close to the 40-percent cut that the science says is needed by 2020 to stay below two degrees C.

The European Union’s emission reductions are already nearly 20 percent and it could easily reach 30 percent by 2020. However, the rest of the developed nations are far behind, with many like Canada, Australia and the United States continuing to increase their emissions, not reduce them.

All industrial nations made additional reduction pledges in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord 2020, but these are not nearly enough. And many countries now insist they cannot be held legally accountable for those pledges.

You can’t negotiate with the Earth’s natural limits. At the moment, emission reduction pledges take us far over those limits,” said Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute in a release.

Complete story first published on IPS 

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