Governments must back carbon capture technology – IEA

By John Parnell 

Governments must throw their weight behind carbon capture and storage technology or risk missing climate change targets.

That’s stark warning from Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) who said today the current pace of overall investment in low carbon technologies is far too slow.

With global fossil fuel use growing unabated, the IEA says technology to trap and store CO2 emissions is now essential.

“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” van der Hoeven told the 4th annual Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) meeting in Delhi.

“Despite much talk by world leaders, and despite a boom in renewable energy over the last decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago,” she added.

“We cannot afford another 20 years of listlessness. We need a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies if we are to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet but we must also accelerate the shift away from dirtier fossil fuels.”

Maria van der Hoeven warned the clean energy revolution appeared to have stalled (©IEA)

“The CEM governments represent 4.1 billion people and three-quarters of global GDP. Together, they have the power to set the clean energy transition in motion, and now it is time for them to use it.”

This week Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) revealed that clean energy investment in the first quarter of 2013 was at its lowest level since 2009. It was down 22% to $40.6bn compared to the year before.

Electricity production accounts for more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions placing the sector at the centre of efforts to tackle climate change.

As many developing economies continue to grow, their emissions from energy production are soaring. China and India represented 57% of global coal demand in 2011. Sustainable energy is set to be one of the pillars of the new Sustainable Development Goals that will begin in 2015.

Must do better

The IEA acknowledges that solar and wind power grew by 42% and 19% in respectively between 2011 and 2012. With fossil fuel use continuing to grow, particularly coal, it says more effort is needed to get Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies up and running so CO2 emissions can be intercepted before they enter the atmosphere.

Coal powered electricity generation grew by 45% between 2000-2010 and 6% between 2010-2012. The IEA says three to six times more investment is required in research and development for CCS to take the edge off these emissions.

The Tracking Clean Energy Progress report 2013 also notes the disparity between fossil fuel subsidies ($523bn) and renewable energy subsidies ($88bn) in 2011.

The IEA says the nations attending the CEM meeting, which include the USA, India, China, Russia and Brazil, account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions and can themselves make a significant contribution to tackling climate change, by shifting the focus of their policies.

The IEA, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the G8 nations and the World Bank have all called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies in recent years.

The IMF encourages cuts to harmful subsidies as a condition of some of its loans. The G8 promotes a voluntary assessment of members’ policies. The World Bank has been criticised for providing $6.6bn of finance for fossil fuel projects.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently said: “To date, I believe our efforts to combat climate change have been too narrowly focused, small scale and uncoordinated. We can do better.

Read more on: Energy | | |