Towards the COP 21: which energy commitments for the climate?
|novembre 20, 2015||Posté par Pierre Papon sous Articles||
The experts of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in their latest report, published in 2014, pointed out that we could only keep the increase in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere below 2 ° C (with a probability of 50%) by reducing world emissions of greenhouse gases (mainly those of CO2 ) by 40-70% in 2050. Climate skeptics still dispute the arguments of the vast majority of climatologists attributing global warming (0.85 ° C between 1880 and 2012) to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, but without providing convincing arguments to their denial. We must observe that if the increase in the average temperature of the Earth seems to have slowed down between 1998 and 2012, this phenomenon is explained and therefore there is no « hiatus » in the progression of global warming (cf. K .E. Trenberth, “Has there been a hiatus?”, Science, Vol. 349, No. 6249, p. 691, 14 August 2015 www.sciencemag.org ). This apparent temperature hiatus is explained by internal ocean variability with a particularly strong El Nino episode beginning in 1997-1998 (a strong warming of the Pacific ocean of which warm surface waters are moving eastwards, it plays a role key in climate variability) while, since 2013, a strong rebound of the earth’s average temperature is observed.
The ongoing climate negotiation that would lead, hopefully, to an agreement at the Cop 21 in Paris, should answer at least three questions: – what efforts to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2, are countries willing to make and according to what criteria? – should the agreement only focus efforts on climate change mitigation or should it also take into account to climate change adaptation? – what kind of assistance to developing countries the most developed one’s are they ready to provide? Energy is at the heart of the debate since the drastic reduction of CO2 emissions requires its « decarbonization », that is to say an energy transition to replace fossil fuels (80% of primary energy) with other sectors. Where are we on this path? In a special report dedicated to the climate, published in May 2015 , the International Energy Agency (IEA) (IEA, World Energy Outlook 2015 Energy and climate change, in May 2015, www.iea.org ), made for the first time, an optimistic observation: in 2014 with a 3% global economic growth, global CO2 emissions have not increased for the first time in 40 years, and energy intensity of the economy fell by 2, 3%. This is an encouraging signal but the goal to be reached (set at 2 ° C at the Copenhagen conference in 2009) is still far away. To summarize things in a simple way, the consumption of fossil fuels the world “should” not exceed 1000 Gt of CO2 equivalent (32 Gt of CO2 emitted by energy sources in 2014) by the end of the century (cf. J. Tollefson, « Scientists step in to carbon-emission for Assessment Pledges », Nature, vol. 521, p. 404, 28 May 2015, www.nature.com ) or put simply CO2 emissions should decrease by 40-70% by 2050.
This touches the critical point of Cop 21 negotiation. Indeed, we must make two observations: – China contributes today to 25% of emissions, the North America to 19%, the EU and Turkey and the former USSR each to 11%, the Bloc Japan-Australia-New Zealand 5%, Asia (excluding China and Japan) to 13%, Africa to 4% and Latin America 5% – there is a difference of a factor of ten in energy consumption per capita between European countries and the sub-Sahara African one’s (a factor of fifteen with the United States) and 1.2 billion of the planet’s inhabitants have not byet access to electricity. On what basis then should we « decarbonise » energy? Should not we consider a principle of “equity” by taking into account the claim that developing countries still need energy for their development? One of the challenges of the negotiation deals with the possibility of reaching agreement based on CO2 emission reduction efforts in the most developed countries « offseting » to some extent, the inevitable increase in the developing one’s . All countries, however, pledging to reach a « peak » in emissions during the two or three coming decades. The « climate » agreement between China and the United States, concluded in 2014, is a step in this direction – the latter undertake to decrease by 26-28% their CO2 emissions by 2025 (compared to 2005) while China would started to lower her one’s by « 2030 »; the EU plans to reduce her emissions by 40% (compared to 1995 levels) in 2030. Meanwhile, two weeks before the conference, according to the UN, the overall national reduction scenarios proposed by 175 countries, would enroll the planet on a course of global warming close to 3 ° C.
The Kyoto Protocol (adopted in 1997) requiring for each country specific targets for reducing its CO2 emissions (only the most developed countries were then concerned) was practically a failure which has to be taken into account. Indeed, only a few countries, including most EU member States, really achieved the goal of reducing their CO2 emissions in 2012, while the United States have not ratified the Protocol and several others, including Japan and Russia, refused to renew their commitment beyond 2012. It is necessary, however, that emerging major CO2 emitters, as China and India, which were not constrained to reductions by the Kyoto Protocol, agree presently to reduce theirs. A breakdown of reductions fixed per capita would seem fair but would be politically impossible to implement (in such a scenario China would have a « quota » corresponding to 17% of global emissions, Asia (excluding China and Japan) 25%, the EU and Turkey 6%, North America 5% and Africa 18% ….. So what should be done? The IEA has proposed a « Bridge » scenario with four pillars: – accept the principle of an emission peak for each country with concrete measures – conduct five-yearly revision of national scenarios – agree on a common goal long term on emissions of greenhouse gases (peaking « by » 2020?) – set up a process for monitoring the objectives of the energy transition. Several concrete actions accompany this scenario: increasing energy efficiency, phasing out the least efficient coal power plants, significantly increase investments in renewable energies in the electricity industry (passing from $ 270 billion in 2014 to 400 billion of $, while eliminating fossil fuel subsidies ($ 500 billion in 2014) and methane emissions in the energy sector by 2030.
It remains to agree on the sinews of war, that is to say : financing a dedicated fund to support developing countries in their fight effort against global warming. This would be the role of the » Green Fund « , the principle of which adopted in Cancun in 2010, which should be provided with $ 100 billion per year from 2020. It is possible that an agreement can be found on the States contribution to finance the Fund, supplemented by bank contributions (including the World Bank, ADB in Africa) and even by companies. But this Fund would probably not be sufficient to offset the effects of climate change (adaptation to rising sea levels, worsening drought in some regions, etc.) and help developing countries to engage in an energy transition knowing that the urbanization of the planet is far from complete (54% in 2014 and probably 65% in 2050). Efforts to accomplish in Africa are particularly important , 600 million Africans having not yet electricity access whereas modern renewable energy is not very developed in rural areas (see IRENA Africa 2030 road map for a renewable energy future, www.irena.org). According to the British economist Nicholas Stern’s, annual global effort to protect the climate would represent « only » 1% of global GDP (see the analysis of his latest book « Why are we waiting? » By Olivier Godard, Futuribles, www.futuribles.com ). According to many economists, a key point for the implementation of a future agreement would be a commitment to implement a carbon tax in varying ways in countries (eg. tax on CO2 emissions, quota emission allowances, etc.); a single global carbon price would be unrealistic and unfair. It would have a double objective: curbing the use of fossil fuels (in priority coal) and financing the energy transition (including the Green Fund); the IEA scenario is silent on this fundamental point. Too often we forget also the need to increase funding R & D efforts, as the energy transition will not happen without technical disruptions and without technology transfers to the South. It is clear that the account is not there. Indeed, in a recent note (IEA, Key trends in public IEA energy technology RD & D budgets, www.iea.org ), the IEA observed that R & D budgets devoted to energy of OECD countries have declined since 2010 (expenditures of $ 17 billion in 2014 a decrease of 6% compared to 2010). It is not certain that the Cop 21 will deal with this important aspect of the energy transition.
A future climate agreement will have to balance between ambitious targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and minimal constraints on commitments (national scenarios for example with concrete mechanisms to engage in an energy transition which should be « controllable »). Obviously one can wonder about the real possibility of achieving the Copenhagen goal (a limitation to 2 ° C of global warming): Isn’t it too late? Probably, but being moderately optimistic we will comfort observing that the Cop 21 is taking place at a time (just after tragic events in Paris!) when international opinion is beginning to become aware of global warming issues and of their potential consequences. The key will be to initiate a movement of clear shift in consumption of fossil fuels. It will remain to implement a political project for an equitable development in the World …. which is no small matter.