Governments need to slash carbon intensity five times faster to avoid dangerous climate change, say analysts
By Ed King
Current emission reduction policies from the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitters will lead to dangerous levels of global warming by the end of this century.
That’s the key message from consultants PwC, in their annual Low Carbon Economy Index based on G20 countries greenhouse gas emissions from 2013.
Its analysts say governments need to slash energy related carbon emissions for every dollar of GDP by 6.2% every year from now to 2100, a figure five times higher than 2014 levels.
PwC sustainability director Jonathan Grant told RTCC the current rate of decarbonisation was about 1% a year. That sets the baseline for business-as-usual improvement in energy efficiency.
“What this shows is that there is a gap between what countries say they want, which is 2C warming, and the pledges that they are making, which are aligned with around 3C, and many of those aren’t likely to meet those targets,” he said.
“We’re looking at the prospect of 4C of warming, and hopefully what this report shows is that there is this gulf between what you are talking about and what you’re actually doing. Hopefully that should be a wake-up call for governments.”
Australia was rated the most improved country, recording a 7.2% drop in carbon intensity. That was credited to high levels of hydropower and declining output in the iron and steel sector.
Poor rains in 2013 caused Brazil to fall to the bottom. The country had to import huge levels of LNG gas to compensate for a drop in hydro capacity, which forms 30% of the electricity mix.
PwC’s report comes just over two weeks before around 120 heads of state meet in New York for a climate summit hosted by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
The organisers say they expect leaders to arrive armed with new emission reduction pledges, and hope the day will forge a new spirit of determination to promote green growth.
Ban wants the meeting to be a springboard ahead of next year’s UN climate conference in Paris, where governments have agreed to sign off a global deal to curb greenhouse gas releases.
With the leaders of India and China signalling they will not attend, some fear the meeting will lack enough representation from emerging economies responsible for growing levels of carbon pollution.
But Grant’s colleague Leo Johnson, brother of London mayor Boris and a PwC partner, said these economies have an increasingly strong story to tell about domestic green growth.
“The E7 group of emerging economies appears to have woken up to the business logic of green growth, decarbonising faster than the G7 for the first recorded time, and substantially so,” he said.
PwC highlight China’s slowdown in coal use, which rose 3.7% in 2013, less than previous years, while solar energy generation doubled.
But the report’s authors warn emerging economies need to accelerate decarbonisation efforts between 2010 and 2020. These countries are collectively reducing the carbon intensity of their economies by 0.6% a year, falling short of their pledged 3.1%.
“For both G7 and E7, the conclusion is clear. We face a twofold challenge of both intent and implementation,” they write.
“The sum of the current pledges is insufficient to meet the global decarbonisation targets needed for 2 degrees. At the level of implementation, the results since 2010 show consistent failure by key economies even to meet their unambitious pledges.”