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COP15

Climate and energy policy – is it adapting fast enough?

Jun 12, 2013 in COP15


CommentVisions hosted a Live Debate on 29 May, 2013 in Brussels on "The EU's post-2020 climate and energy policy: a path to sustainable growth?" Click here to learn more about the event. 

 

The EU has launched a crucial discussion about its future climate and energy policy. Current targets on energy production and usage are set to 2020, but what factors are driving the debate on new targets beyond that date? 

We asked our CommentVisions debate audience whether they think the framework for the EU’s post-2020 climate and energy policy is a path to sustainable growth…

Have your say on the progress of EU post-2020 climate and energy policy at commentvisions.com, on LinkedIn and via twitter.

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Barry Stevens

Managing Director

TBD America, Inc

Posted on: 11/06/2013

Two profound questions loom over all other energy concerns: will we have enough affordable energy in the near future? And what will we do for the long term?

There are no simple answers, today’s global energy economy is faced with increasing energy demand, depleting resources, rising energy prices, limited availability and reinforcement of countermeasures to reduce pollution and the effects of global warming.

The answers depend on each region’s inventory of resources and energy needs as well as their political and cultural environment. 

The 1973 and 2010 fuel share of the world’s total energy supply is shown above. In terms of overall product, the global energy supply doubled from 6,107 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1973 to 12,717 Mtoe in 2010. Therefore, while the overall trend shows a slight increase in contribution of clean energy during this time period, the production of fossil fuels is significantly higher in 2010 than 1973.

At present, fossil fuels still dominate world primary energy supply. Oil leads both coal and natural gas. However, between 1972 and 2010, oil showed a drop in share relative to coal and natural gas. Of the three fossil fuels, natural gas showed the largest increase between the two target years.

By 2010, biofuels and waste-to-energy made up another 10% of total supplies, followed by nuclear and conventional hydropower such as dams. Renewable energy sources round out the roster, accounting for less than 2% of production – mostly as the result of investments in wind and solar.

These sources and their proportions will have to change eventually, since the planet's known supplies of fossil fuels are limited. During the next couple of decades, the nation's energy menu is unlikely to be substantially different from today – assuming “business as usual” conditions.

Source: Enerdata

The total world energy consumption by country is illustrated by this map: the darker the color, the higher the energy consumption. On top of the map is a chart showing the actual and projected growth rates of energy consumption by OEDC and non-OEDC countries from 1990 to 2040.

Organization for economic co-operation and development countries (OEDC), which were the center of energy demand, were impacted by the economic crisis, lower population growth and changes in their economic industrial structure. Their energy consumption fell in line with the drop in the European Union and the stagnation in North America

 

 

Source: ExxonMobil

The demand for energy shifted from the OEDC countries to china, India, Africa and the Mideast; where energy consumption continued to grow steadily; with china widening the gap with the United States.

One of the most potentially important trends in the energy field is how emerging economies’ development priorities are shaping energy markets. These emerging countries are expected to make up the bulk of growth in demand for energy in the coming decades, with countries outside OEDC accounting for 83% of the expected growth in energy demand between now and 2035.

As the global centers of expansion, these non-OEDC countries will increasingly influence how new energy markets evolve. Many of these countries have new notions of sustainable development – that are likely to bring about energy systems different from us Or European models of energy infrastructure and use.

On the consumption side, this chart shows 1973 and 2010 fuel shares of the world’s total consumption.  In terms of overall consumption, the global energy use nearly doubled from 4,672 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 1973 to 8,677 Mtoe in 2010. Again, while the overall trend shows an increase in contribution of clean energy during this time period, the cpnsumption of fossil fuels is significantly higher in 2010 than 1973.

Following a similar trend with production, consumption is dominated by fossil fuels.  Biofuels and waste-to-energy collectively called biomass emerge as a viable energy resource in the world market. However, their share has remained steady over the target periods.

As renewable sources of energy, wind, solar, geothermal and wave-action make a negligible contribution to world energy consumption. But in all fairness, if not supplied, it will not get consumed.

Electricity can't be pumped out of the ground like oil or captured from moving air like wind energy. So it is called a secondary source of energy. Meaning it is produced from primary energy resources which include the remaining fuels shown in the chart.

Experts predict a 35% increase in demand for electricity by 2030. In practical terms, that means an equivalent increase in demand for coal and gas, at least for the next decade.

Electricity generating plants now consume a sizeable portion world energy from all sources, including 70% of world's coal and nearly 40% of its natural gas.

There is no immediate way to alter that situation. In the near term, renewable resources are unlikely to substantially change the mix of world energy supply.

While nuclear generation is a zero-atmospheric-emissions alternative that already produces  around 15% of the world's electricity, efforts to increase that capacity face large, though not insurmountable, hurdles: high capital investment costs and resistance from citizens groups that oppose the use and storage of radioactive material.

The trend in international energy prices for fossil fuels is another important factor driving fuel utilization.

 

This series of charts show the variation and volatility in global spot prices for oil, coal and natural gas from 1985 to 2011. Each fuel is displayed on a separate chart. The colored lines are prices from different traders; for the most part the lines are similar in shape and value.

Historically, oil prices are unstable, rise, and fall in response to world economics, stability, speculation and rumors. The peaks and valleys can be traced back to any one or a number of these factors.

Global crude oil markets have seen an erratic upward spiral in prices for many years. Looking down the road, there are no indications that this upward price pressure will ease in the foreseeable future; forcing price increases throughout the supply chain.

Coal prices have also been on the increase since 2005 and recently are hitting all-time highs. The rising price reflects the boom in demand for energy resources in china and India, as well as supply problems related to Australia’s floods.

Much to the dismay of environmentalists, the use of coal has increased over the past few decades both in absolute terms and as a percentage of total primary energy supply. 

It is expected that this surging need for energy in emerging economies will not ease, especially with china. The continued pressure on coal demand over the next five years will have strong implications for world coal prices.

The chart of the global price history of natural gas shows U.S. Prices, represented by the bottom purple line, are much lower than prices elsewhere in the world.

The boom in production of natural gas trapped in shale formations, which has been unlocked by new technology, has driven u.s. Gas prices to a 10-year low - about where they were in 1976, and various low points in the 90s. This has proved a huge blessing for big industrial users of natural gas.

The gap between U.S. And international gas prices has expanded to all-time highs, giving American industries a competitive advantage.

Energy intensive industries in Europe and Asia are becoming increasingly aware of the huge edge gained by shale gas production.

In summary, industrial countries are almost fully adapted to fossil fuels. Coal and natural gas will continue to provide the majority of power generation for the near future. Nuclear power, biofuel, waste-to-energy, and hydro-electric power are making inroads to replace fossil fuels in the world economy but not fast enough. To this end, climate change will progressively get worst. It seems that world does have an energy policy after all, which is not to have a policy at all

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author Dr. Barry Stevens, an accomplished business developer and entrepreneur in technology-driven enterprises. He is the founder of TBD America Inc., a global technology business development group. In this role, he is responsible for leading the development of emerging and mature technology driven enterprises in the shale gas, natural gas, renewable energy and sustainability industries. To learn more about TBD America, please visit: http://tbdamericainc.com/

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John and Mary Ellen Harte

Author

Cool the Earth, Save the Economy

Posted on: 12/06/2013

The world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible, by as much as possible, and as smartly as possible, yet we are from that achieving that goal. 

The reason for acting quickly is that the cumulative buildup of climate-altering gases in the atmosphere threatens the survival of civilization, and the longer we wait to address the problem, the more damage there will be to the planetary life support system. 

The reason we have to reduce emissions by as much as possible is that we not only need to stop the build-up of greenhouse gases; we need to reduce emissions to a level at which natural processes will begin to draw down the absolute level of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The current level will lead to an increasing and unacceptable degree of global warming as the earth’s energy budget absorbs the consequences of additional trapped radiation.

There are smarter and dumber ways to address the climate problem. The three most affordable and available elements of a clean energy policy are efficiency, solar, and wind.  Wind power is cost competitive with coal, gains in efficiency have already greatly reduced both costs and carbon emissions and there is much more that can be done, while direct capture of solar energy is rapidly decreasing in cost and its deployment is rapidly spreading.

We need to avoid thinking that clean coal is a realistic option, or that biofuels, geoengineering, hydropower, and nuclear power are the answer. Clean coal is a wish, not a policy.  The many proposed biofuel options all entail far too much collateral damage to biodiversity and food production.  Geoengineering the climate fails to address ocean acidification, would exacerbate political tensions, and would nearly certainly bring about unanticipated and unwanted climate consequences.  Hydropower is arguably the most destructive of all sources of energy, both to biodiversity and to the peoples it displaces.  The economics of nuclear power will suffice to make it non-competitive without massive subsidies. 

The time we have available to solve the problem of global warming is rapidly shrinking.  Some governing bodies, such as California, are already taking major steps to address the issue.  There is an economic as well as an environmental advantage to acting expeditiously, for the states and nations that act first will likely emerge as economic leaders in the post-fossil fuel economy of the latter half of the 21st century.  By shifting subsidies away from dirty energy and redirecting them toward clean renewables and efficiency, we can save both the planet and the world’s  economies. 

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Jude H. Kurniawan

Technical Director

Brown Technologies Pte Ltd

Posted on: 13/06/2013

Energy and climate policies are not adapting fast enough to address the issue on global warming. Most of these policies, if not all, are fundamentally devised from economics theory. In the case of climate change scenario, there is a built-in positive feedback loop. The effect may not be apparent at this current time but when positive feedback kicks in, the effect can be catastrophic. Ask any control engineers and they will tell you that positive feedback is a doomsday scenario in control system. 

Climate and energy policies devised solely based on fundamental of economics fail to acknowledge that: 
1. Multivariable exists 
2. Variables are nonlinear 
3. All variables exist within a closed-loop system (i.e. they are counter-acting) 

Economics tends to over-simplify real-life situation down to mostly two variables (i.e. supply and demand) which are generally somewhat linear. By emphasizing on limited variables, it simply means that we are ignoring other variables’ existence. 

Assuming we want to control the level of water in a tank. There are many water inlets (supplies) and outlets (demands) into the tank. The current control policies take into account only one inlet and one outlet (and ignoring the rest). This kind of simplistic control system may work if the control system regulates the largest inlet and the largest outlet. What if not? Why leave it to chance? Take Emission Trading System for example, ETS regulates the ‘supply’ of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the hope to achieve stable concentration setpoint (Setpoint is a term used in control engineering to define the desired output we want to achieve). But ETS alone does not have any built-in feedback mechanism to take into account the amount of carbon dioxide removed by carbon sequestration. The setpoint of ETS is in fact defined by the emission cap which is the percentage point down from BAU emission and not the level of carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere. Mapping the water tank example, i.e. water is the carbon dioxide and the tank is our atmosphere; ETS only controls and regulates one supply inlet (how much is flowing in), that’s it. To achieve stable concentration, ideally, input must equate to output. In other words, the amount of carbon dioxide removed by carbon sink activities should used to define the amount of allowable emission. The policy instrument must be looked at as a control function as it serves the purpose to regulate the output (carbon emission) based on the known measured variables (e.g. GHG emission, carbon concentration, land-use and land-use change inventory, rate of deforestation, cities expansion, sea ice condition etc).

However, it is valuable to note that carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere is a ‘delayed feedback’ because of the long lifespan of carbon dioxide in atmosphere which is about 50-200 years. This will result in control loop latency – we can only observe the result of the current emission reduction activities much later in the future. By the time we realize that we are off-target, it’s too late. Because of this complexity, a simple control system is not adequate to address this problem. Other climate and energy policies exist as independent control systems without much interaction. This brings about confusion and counter-productivity at times. 

Climate and energy policies are not adapting fast enough because they employ control philosophies which are too simplistic in addressing complex situation. When control strategies come into the question, control engineering theory may be able to shed some light. Control theory is nothing new and it is not rocket-science. But the idea of control engineers writing policy papers is very hard to accept.

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Russell Avery

Founder, Contributor

Viridizine

Posted on: 17/06/2013

I don't believe that climate and energy policy is adapting rapidly enough relative to the changing states of the Earth's climate and the global energy crisis. Whether or not this is the fault of politicians is another question, but part of the answer is certainly that they could be doing a much better job. Due to the very nature of climate change (the clue is in the word) and the continuing increase in global GHG emissions, coming up with adequate climate policies is no mean feat, I'm sure. But surely it's time that governments around the globe got as extreme as the threats we face when it comes to their policy and decision making processes. Desperate times call for desperate measures and all that. It's a step in the right direction that the UK decided not to scrap the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, the benefits of which I have seen first-hand: e.g. businesses taking a step towards becoming more sustainable, as well as driving up demand for energy-efficient goods and services. The world needs a lot more schemes like the CRC in order to stand tall to the perils of climate change, and I think they'd have to be even bolder in their nature for the change that's needed to happen as quickly as it's needed.

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Michael MacCracken

Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs

Climate Institute Washington DC

Posted on: 19/06/2013

Based on the global disruption of traditional weather patterns, climate and energy policy is clearly not adapting fast enough to slow changes in the hydrologic cycle that have been causing an increased percentage of precipitation to occur in drenching, and often flooding, rains; not fast enough to slow the faster drying of soils that occurs with higher temperatures and reduced occurrence of low and moderate rain events; not fast enough to slow the rise in the snowline and melting of low latitude glaciers that are reducing warm-season water resources; and not fast enough to prevent the shift toward new temperature extremes to be strongly biased to the warm, and often very warm, side.

 Especially in high latitudes, climate and energy policy is clearly not adapting fast enough to slow the loss of sea ice that is central to sustaining critical wildlife and Indigenous cultures; not fast enough to keep mountain glaciers and the Greenland Ice Sheet from contributing to global sea level rise; not fast enough to limit the summertime uptake of heat that leads to disruptive changes in mid-latitude weather as the heat is released during the rest of the year; and not fast enough to prevent thawing of frozen soils and sediments from initiating natural carbon feedbacks likely to amplify global warming.

Based on the increasingly challenging weather being faced by farmers, as reflected especially in the higher prices for and lower reserves of critical grains and food stocks, based on the increasing flooding of coastal lands and more extensive inundation during storms due to sea level rise, based on the increasing acidification of the oceans and the rising threat to marine life, and based on the poleward shifts of flora and fauna on land and in the ocean, climate and energy policy is not adapting fast enough.

Understanding the role of greenhouse gases in contributing to the determination of the global climate goes back to the mid-19th century, and by the 1960s there was confirmation that human activities were indeed increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. In 1965, the (U.S.) President’s Science Advisory Council sent a report to President Johnson and Congress entitled “Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuels—the Invisible Pollutant” (yes, 42 years before the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts et al. versus EPA, CO2 had been referred to as a “pollutant” in an official US Government document), concluding that “[t]hrough his worldwide industrial civilization, Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment.” 

Scientific research on the issue expanded greatly during the 1970s and early 1980s, leading to a wide number of national and international conferences and reports. In 1985, an international conference bringing together the science and policy-making communities was convened jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, and the International Council of Scientific Unions (now the International Council of Science) in Villach, Austria. The conclusions and recommendations from this conference, now 28 years in the past, provided a clear indication of what lay ahead:

1.     Many important economic and social decisions are being made today on long-term projects—major water resource management activities such as irrigation and hydro-power, drought relief, agricultural land use, structural designs and coastal engineering projects, and energy planning—all based on the assumption that past climatic data, without modification, are a reliable guide to the future. This is no longer a good assumption since the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are expected to cause a significant warming of the global climate in the next century. It is a matter of urgency to refine estimates of future climate conditions to improve these decisions.

2.     Climate change and sea level rises due to greenhouse gases are closely linked with other major environmental issues, such as acid deposition and threats to the Earth's ozone shield, mostly due to changes in the composition of the atmosphere by man's activities. Reduction of coal and oil use and energy conservation undertaken to reduce acid deposition will also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, a reduction in the release of chloro-fluorocarbons (CFCs) will help protect the ozone layer and will also slow the rate of climate change.

3.     While some warming of climate now appears inevitable due to past actions, the rate and degree of future warming could be profoundly affected by governmental policies on energy conservation, use of fossil fuels, and the emission of some greenhouse gases.

Seven years later, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro—it seemed that climate change and energy policy was starting to respond. The often-repeated objective of the Convention is:

to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Now 21 years since its adoption by the nations of the world, climate and energy policy is not adapting fast enough. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have not been stabilized, and the prospects for doing so by even the middle of the 21st century seem dim based on the limited national commitments made to date. Already, changes in climate are so significant that the prospects for a substantial loss of biodiversity are increasing and the health of many ecosystems are being, or soon will be, seriously disrupted. Associated changes in weather, with increasingly extreme heat waves and rains, have been impacting the productivity of agriculture in key crop-growing regions, sometimes making it too wet to plant and at other times too hot and dry for crops to reach maturity. With high confidence we can say that disruptive changes in weather are occurring, especially in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes as the subtropics expand poleward and the high-latitude generation of cold air masses essential to determination of mid-latitude weather is altered by Arctic warming and sea ice loss.

But some say, the UNFCCC objective also included a third qualifying provision that stabilization “should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to ... enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.” At the time, this phrase was generally interpreted to mean that the transition away from reliance on coal, petroleum, natural gas, and shale-derived fuels could be initiated slowly so that the economy would not be disrupted. With virtually unconstrained use of fossil fuels, however, the world economy is just puttering along, with large numbers unemployed or under-employed, with social discontent due to rising prices for food and energy and environmental pollution and degradation close to reaching a vigorous boil, and with economic development being slowed by the rising costs of vital natural resources and unsustainable production paths.

To my mind what is needed is to turn the interpretation of the UNFCCC’s third qualifying provision on its head. Arguably, it has been the slow approach toward limiting climate change and moving toward sustainable development that has been restraining the global economy and limiting job growth. Continuing on this path will lead to more climatic disruption and even greater allocation of our wealth to rebuilding after disasters and to having to relocate away from the rising sea, the tinder-dry vegetation, and over-stretched water resources.

To stabilize atmospheric composition, ensure adequate food production, minimize ecosystem disruption, and build a stronger global economy, climate and energy policies need to be much more aggressive. In a speech to the Carbon Disclosure Project in September 2007, former (U.S.) President Bill Clinton offered a strong economic rationale for moving rapidly to greening the global energy system rather than holding back, thinking that doing so would be best for the economy:

“Unless you're going to make it illegal for people to move their money around or illegal to buy something from some other country, you cannot maintain a growing economy with rising median wages over any significant length of time unless there is a source of good new jobs every five to eight years… this historic challenge we're facing from climate change is this decade's source of good new jobs for rich countries, and foolishly, the United States passed it up.”

Six years later, the US is still largely passing up this opportunity to create new jobs, at least based on national level policies and actions. At the state level, more is happening. California has embraced going green, and its economy has come back so much that they are now trying to figure out what to do with the budget surplus that has replaced what a number of critics had thought was a long-term deficit. A few other states are also pushing ahead toward a much greener energy system, and most of the car companies are doing likewise, not being just pushed by the new requirements of higher mileage standards, but also being pulled by market demand.

Personally, new solar panels on my roof supply most of my electricity, and I am earning the equivalent of a 10% tax-free return on the cost incurred in prepaying a 20-year lease. And the installation company is doing well too, hiring new installers to deal with the multi-month backlog in customers generated primarily by word-of-mouth referrals rather than media advertising.

There are tremendous opportunities if we will only move forward toward sustainability, keeping in mind the need for a multi-pronged approach. For example, John and Mary Ellen Harte, in their book Cool the Earth, Save the Economy: Solving the Climate Crisis is EASY (available for free download at http://www.cooltheearth.us/index.php), offer an acronym that identifies the needed components of a comprehensive approach:

·         E is for Efficiency: A tremendous potential exists to use energy more efficiently, with many opportunities for payback times of a few years, providing virtually guaranteed tax-free returns far above those from savings accounts. Architecture 2030, for example, envisions widespread conversion of buildings to be energy neutral. Basically, investing a little capital up front can reap significant and long-lasting returns.

·         A is for Automobiles and other transportation: Again, there is tremendous potential for savings by switching from gasoline to electricity to provide the primary source of energy for ground transportation. Add in biofuels (and increased use of bicycles) and the carbon footprint of transportation can be greatly reduced.

·         S is for Solar and other renewable and non-carbon emitting sources of electricity. That the world has a glut of solar cells and is letting manufacturing capacity sit idle is a disgrace. The world needs to be installing solar at a rate that far exceeds global manufacturing capacity, and not arranging the rules and incentives to ensure that the global transition proceeds as rapidly as possible is a disgrace, essentially ignoring the very large climate-change and pollution-related externalities caused by the continued reliance on fossil fuels. Just because we cannot exactly price in the costs of initiating loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet and the resulting several-meter rise in global sea level is not an excuse for doing nothing to represent the external costs. Proper pricing would greatly accelerate switching to solar, wind, ocean, geothermal, nuclear and other sustainable and non-CO2 emitting energy sources.

·         Y is for You—all that you and I can do to change our ways and work to ensure a rapid transition away from climate-changing and sustainability-limiting sources of energy. We make choices all the time in what we buy and eat, what we do and how we travel, and more. And we make choices in the steps we and our communities take to prepare for climate change and build resilience to weather disruption. We also make choices in how hard or soft we push to change the present set of policies, in the steps we take to encourage governments, organizations and individuals at all levels to do all that can be done to promote climate and energy policies are doing enough.

At least some further climate change is inevitable, but the opportunity still exists to avoid a good share of the most severe consequences, if we choose to act. As summarized in the 2011 report from UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone: Summary for Decision Makers, there is a near-term opportunity to cut the projected warming from 2010 to 2050 in half (!) through an aggressive effort to limit emissions of methane, black carbon, and gases that contribute to the formation of tropospheric ozone. At the same time, to reduce the temperature increase out to the end of the 21st century and beyond, there must be an aggressive effort to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other long-lived gases.

What is so problematic in the analyses being made today is the near-sole focus on immediate and very-near term economic effect, seeming to ignore the implications for future generations of our slow policy approach. Society makes a significant commitment to education of our youth to ensure their success over the long-term; it is essential that we make the same level of investment to ensure the viability of the environment that we bequeath them or a greatly increasing share of their earnings will have to go to recovery and adaptation, leaving them worse off in the net.

The prospects for the future are seemingly so challenging and the time for taking action so short (if not already past) that a growing number of scientists and engineers are exploring whether there may be options to at least partially counter-balance global warming. As one of those involved in such climate engineering efforts, let me say that these inquiries are being undertaken not with intent of finding an alternative solution, but as a step of desperation arising from the inadequacy of current policies in the face of very clear signals from the climate and environment that future weather and climate is becoming more disruptive and extreme. This desperate search for possible complements to mitigation is coming from those who typically have an optimistic view of what society can accomplish if it chooses, but who are perplexed by the widespread inaction given the increasingly solid scientific information provided over the past half century.

So, the answer to the posed question must be that climate and energy policy is not adapting nearly fast enough. There is still time, but not much, to act. The longer we wait, the more aggressive and expensive actions will need to be to achieve the long-term benefits we owe future generations.

 

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D.

Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs

Climate Institute

Washington DC 20006 USA

http://www.climate.org

 

mmaccracken@climate.org

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Jan te Bos

Director General

Eurima

Posted on: 20/06/2013

An immediate, and even more interesting, follow-up question to the one above is in my view: Climate and Energy policy, what does it need to adapt to?

When setting the current 20-20-20 by 2020 targets in 2007 de-carbonisation was the main driver as a consequence of the much compelling need to fight global climate change. But since 2007, as we are well aware, many things have changed and the challenge has become more complex. Without diminishing the urgency of the environmental crisis, the economic crunch and related social concerns have taught us that future Climate and Energy policy-making must become the main driver for sustainable growth and competitiveness. An opportunity not a burden!

The EU will have to recognise that an energy transition is necessary, as already recognised by major member states, and that in such a transition energy-demand reduction will need to play a central role. Therefore, Energy Efficiency and Savings related measures and targets -in particular regarding the building stock- are the closest we can get to a “silver bullet” capable of addressing people, planet and profit at the same time in the most cost-effective manner while proposing a real business opportunity.

As we know, change is difficult, let alone, transition! Therefore the future EU Climate & Energy policy needs to combine long-term security and stability against a 2050 horizon with ambitious EU policy targets and measures for 2030, including a binding EU energy savings target. A binding and meaningful 2030 target for energy savings is:

Good for the economy: Energy savings would immediately reduce the EU’s energy imports, thereby providing extensive macro-economic savings. In addition, public finances would benefit from lower energy demand: research has demonstrated that investing in activities such as building refurbishment can bring vast immediate benefits for public budgets.

Good for business: Energy savings would keep energy prices and costs (key elements for maintaining the global competitiveness of European businesses) at reasonable levels. In addition, the strong development of EU energy saving technologies would put the European energy-efficiency industry in a frontrunner position in this area.

Good for employment: Energy-saving-related activities have the potential to put back to work millions of EU citizens, especially in those sectors having suffered most during the crisis. The best example is the German KfW scheme for building refurbishment, which in 2010 created or safeguarded –only in Germany- some 340,000 local jobs in the construction sector.

Good for the environment: If the EU is serious about reaching its 2050 climate goals (85% less overall CO2 emissions, 88-91% lower emissions from the residential sector), ambitious action must start now and be maintained thoughout the process, to 2030 and beyond.

2030 targets and measures must be defined within a coordinated and consistent framework of mutually reinforcing policies and legislation (GHG, RES, EE) aimed at delivering sustainable competitive growth in the longer term. From this perspective,a pure “10-years-after-2020” approach would be too short-sighted.

Building renovations, starting by increased energy performance of the building envelope through high- performance insulation, have by far the biggest cost-effective energy savings and emissions reduction potential of any sector in the EU. Many studies have confirmed that reducing the energy demand of the EU building stock by 80% by 2050 is possible with currently available technologies. Long-term strategies for deep renovation of the building stock must therefore be at the heart of any future climate and energy strategy that needs to deliver on combined environmental, economic and social imperatives.

 

Jan te Bos

Director General

European Insulation Manufacturers Association (Eurima)

 

May 2013

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Franco Romerio

Professor

Geneva Environment Institute

Posted on: 26/06/2013

Energy policy has been subject to significant change in the European Union and in my country Switzerland since the Nineties. These changes were rapid in certain areas and slower in others. The main problem stems from the fact that there was insufficient coordination, resulting in present contradictory dynamics. The energy system may be at risk and the speed of the so-called “transition” may be negatively affected.

Since opening electricity markets to competition, spot markets represent an important point of reference for decision-makers. Wholesale prices are volatile and reflect marginal generating costs. The profitability of new investments depends on daily and seasonal peak prices. If they are not high enough or are only sporadic, capital costs cannot be recovered.

Feed-in tariffs were widely used by a certain number of countries to promote the development of new renewable energy, in particular wind and solar power that are intermittent resources. The results were quite impressive. Not only did renewable energy take-off, but generating costs were also reduced thanks to the “learning curves”. The cost of the subsidies provided was however high.

At present, new renewable energy, together with the decrease in electricity consumption (due to the economic crisis) is provoking a sharp fall in spot prices. Wind and solar energy displace conventional power plants due to the fact that their marginal costs are zero. They also take advantage of the priority dispatch rule. This means that the market, outside the subsidies system, no longer guarantees investments in modernization and new capacity.

We should recognize that there exists a significant divergence between energy policy and market design. On the one hand, we lean on short-term market mechanisms and on the other, on a long-term planning approach. The consequences may be quite harmful for the energy transition.

Supply security may be jeopardized because of insufficient investment in capacity and reserves. The market viability of even the most promising of renewable energies is not guaranteed, because without subsidies, spot prices don’t allow the recovery of investment costs of such capital-intensive technologies. Furthermore, the CO2 market is still poorly calibrated meaning that price signals are ineffective. Imports of coal from the United States of America, following the discoveries of shale gas in that country, are increasing carbon emissions in Europe.

Almost paradoxically, wholesale prices are low whereas retail prices are high. The former weakens several big power companies, which represent an important business in some countries. The latter has a negative effect on the wider business community, and in turn European economic recovery. In the near future, one should also define how the modernization of electricity networks would be financed, whose macroeconomic impact has not yet been clearly assessed.

The above does not mean that central planning should be restored. Nor does it mean that markets should be relied on completely. The problem is that uncertainty is such a challenge that one needs to define flexible strategies based on market dynamics as well as “indicative plans”. Rigid regulatory approaches are also inappropriate.

In Europe, we should fix market design and rethink energy policy (in particular subsidies) to be more consistent and flexible. The complexity of the problems should be fully recognized. Energy transition may be accelerated, but one shouldn’t think that the speed of change represents an exogenous variable that can be set independently of energy system mechanisms.

Franco Romerio

Institute for Environmental Sciences – University of Geneva (Switzerland)

 

May 25, 2013

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Marco Torregrossa

Managing Director

Euro Freelancers

Posted on: 27/06/2013

In order for climate and energy policies to adapt quickly we need to scale up the concept of energy sharing and collaborative consumption. Named by TIME as one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change the World”, collaborative consumption describes the shift in consumer values from individual ownership to shared access. In many areas of our life, the importance of owning physical stuff is diminishing favouring services that provide us with access to products as and when needed. As our possessions dematerialise into the intangible, this concept is also very much applicable to energy consumption and production, because of the need to reduce carbon footprint of households that can be satisfied by sharing assets, hence stretching the life cycle of a product and reducing waste. Sharing energy consumption surpluses from one household to another via smart grids and controlled by digital monitoring systems will reduce end users' energy bills and do good for the environment. Real time tracking devices, sensor networks, GPS, mobile connections and the internet can allow this to take place from individual home owners, fundamentally changing the way we consume our energy in favour of a more distributive model.

We increasingly consume products and services through renting, sharing, and purchasing subscriptions, the same can be done with the energy we use in our home. Being “socially connected” nowadays is no longer just about having a lot of people to share your news with; these days, it’s about having a lot of people to share your surpluses with, either for free or at a fraction of the market fee.

Businesses will need to reconsider their energy distribution models to encourage shared access, as well as service lines that support multi-user life cycles. Although companies can expect sales losses in some areas – because shared energy does not need to be purchased as often – overall, the opportunities outweigh the risks. Sharing energy per se is not a rejection of consumption; rather it’s beneficial. That’s because not consuming energy on one end frees up resources for more conscious and deliberate energy consumption on the other. More info: http://www.euro-freelancers.eu/marco-torregrossa-presentation-on-the-sharing-economy/

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Julie F. Gorte

Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing

Pax World Management Corporation

Posted on: 01/07/2013

The flippant answer to any question regarding “is X enough?” is “enough for what?”  If the question is whether climate and energy policy is adapting fast enough to avert the end of life on earth, the answer probably is yes.  Life thrives in some environments that would be considered inhospitable, even extreme, to most of the living things on the planet.  Climatic extremes have occurred before, and while they are often associated with mass extinctions, they have not ended life.  But if the unspoken part of the question is “fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change,” the answer is emphatically, absolutely, unquestionably no. 

We are now on a path to increase the average global temperature of the earth by 4C by the end of the century—more than four times more than the average global temperature has already risen above preindustrial levels.  In Copenhagen, at COP15, the nations of the world agreed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases to levels that would stabilize the climate at 2above preindustrial levels, or at around 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere.   Looking at the climate policy landscape gives no hint that the world is barreling toward this cliff. There is very little happening in the United States, where hopes of passage of a bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions were alive as recently as 2010 before being smashed when Harry Reid pulled the bill after preliminary vote counts showed it had no chance of passing.  While President Obama promised to make climate policy a priority for his second term, there is very little visible effort being devoted to it.  We hope to be pleasantly surprised, but sadly, that would still be a surprise.  Europe, meanwhile, which has been a global leader in the effort to stabilize the climate, recently declined to backload EU carbon permits in light of the recession-induced supply of carbon permits on the market now.  Carbon prices tumbled, along with incentives to reduce emissions.  And China, already the world’s biggest coal consumer, keeps on building new coal-fired power plants. 

We cannot afford to burn all the proven reserves of fossil fuels on the planet without committing ourselves to a world that warms 4C within a century.  We may not recognize that world; some small island nations may disappear altogether, coastlines will be altered, the maps of agricultural productivity and disease will shift far northward, and severe storms, droughts, floods and other weather-related disasters will become far more commonplace.  These changes have already begun, but climate models and experts assure us that what we have seen is mild compared with what we expect in a world that is four degrees warmer.  Yet no nation has advanced, or even explored the possibilities of moving, policy that would keep four-fifths of the world’s proven fossil fuel resources in the ground.  We don’t have a lot of time to do that before the option expires, and all we can do is adapt to a far more tumultuous planet than the one we’re accustomed to.  

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Kurt Cobb

Author

Prelude, A Peak Oil Novel

Posted on: 02/07/2013

The most important thing you need to know about whether climate and energy policies across the globe are adapting fast enough to head off catastrophic climate change is this:  It takes between 25 and 50 years for the surface temperature of the Earth to reflect warming resulting from greenhouse gas emissions. That means that the warming we are experiencing today is the result of emissions up through 1988 at the latest, but probably only through the late 1970s. The lag is due to the thermal inertia of the oceans. In lay terms, it takes longer to heat water than air.

The already ferocious pace of the ice melt in the Arctic, in Greenland, and among glaciers worldwide does not even reflect emissions since those dates--emissions which have been accumulating at ever greater rates each year. In other words, the amount of greenhouse gases we've put into the atmosphere in the last 25 years is much greater than the amount we released in the 25 years before that. And, because of thermal inertia much worse is in store for us even if we enact effective policies today.

The extreme droughts and floods predicted by global climate models are not phenomena of the future. They have already arrived and with them damage to food crops and the accompanying high food prices. Water supplies will become increasingly problematic in arid regions as they continue to dry because of climate change.

To say that we need to wait for more study to understand the risks of the uncontrolled release of greenhouse gases is pure nonsense. The risks are now all too apparent, and we are only at the beginning of a warming that will worsen for decades even if industrial civilization were shut down today.

Now, of course, we are not going to shut down industrial civilization which makes it all the more urgent to begin drastic reductions of greenhouse gases. This represents a gargantuan, but not insuperable task.

It would require a program to retrofit buildings to so-called 
passive house standards, standards which ensure an 80 to 90 percent reduction in energy use. It would require the phasing out of personal automobile transport in favor of electrified mass transit powered by renewable energy. It would require substantial funding of research on the storage of electrical energy which must increasingly substitute for hydrocarbon fuels, particularly in transportation. The storage problem must be solved so as to make currently intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar available around the clock.

An effective response would also require a steep and rising carbon tax that makes renewable energy competitive while encouraging conservation of carbon-based fuels. And finally, we need a worldwide campaign to encourage energy-saving behavior.

These measures may seem daunting. But, they are not nearly as daunting as the problems we will experience as a species if the planet undergoes catastrophic climate change. And, that is our destination if we do not now--that is, right now--implement serious and admittedly costly worldwide changes to our energy and climate regimes.

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Sol Shapiro

Consultant

Sol Shapiro Consulting

Posted on: 03/07/2013

There is no simple answer to the question - because of the  uncertainty associated with the interrelationship between the increased CO2 in the atmosphere and severe weather occurrences.  
For IF increased CO2 levels are causing more severe weather then we are killing people (a statistical group, not specific individuals - which allows it to happen) in this generation;  when by deploying Solar Radiation Management (SRM) Geoengineering we can eliminate these increased deaths and destruction.
In the presence of the possibility that severe weather is related to increased CO2, ethical considerations should drive us to inform the public of the probability that SRM can put a hold on climate change and give the world the time it needs to change its energy base.  The first step would be to study the several SRM technologies which can be deployed in short order.  To do this we need significant funding of such activities as the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative and others.  Hence the need for public pressure to get such funding.

To get to this open discussion of Solar Radiation Management, we need to overcome the refusal of the environmental community to discuss geoengineering while they treat it "like the crazy aunt in the attic about whom we don't talk."  There is a dictum they live by, to paraphrase the late Steve Schneider of Stanford University - "that if the public knew there is a short term solution climate change they would continue to pollute."  Not without merit, but should we trade off lives in this generation for leverage to change the world's energy base for the next generation?

We need to do both!

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Magdalena Muir

Barrister and Solicitor

Arctic Institute of North America, Aarhus University, Johns Hopkins University, and Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC)

Posted on: 04/07/2013

Integrating Energy Policy and Adaptation Measures for Europe, Include a Focus on Coasts, Island, Marine Areas and Watersheds:

 

Sustainable energy development, in conjunction with adaptation to climate and other changes, is increasingly important with Europe and globally. Fossil fuels have supported modern societies and lifted billions of people out of poverty. They have also changed landscapes and polluted air and water. Now the production of carbon dioxide is changing the climate, and European energy policy must continuously change.

 

The integration of more sustainable energy uses, and climate adaptation and mitigation, is extremely important across all of Europe and globally. Here, the focus on the specific vulnerabilities, needs, and opportunities for European coasts, islands, and watersheds, which are important economically and socially throughout Europe. These areas will have increasing and shifting energy needs due to climate and population, and will also be most pressed to adapt to climate change.

 

Energy enables the three pillars of sustainable development – economic development, social development, and environmental protection.  Europe needs flexibility in how it generates energy, but this energy can be cleaner, low carbon or renewable; and generated and delivered locally and used more efficiently with the assistance of European policy tools and measures.

 

Terrestrial and offshore winds, solar, geothermal energy, biomass and biofuels, and other renewable resources can meet energy needs, while supporting local development, achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions, and addressing crucial issues such as energy, water and food security.

 

Energy, water and food security are all intertwined throughout Europe, particularly for  arid and remote coasts and small islands. Energy and water systems, and renewable energy and aquifer management, can assist in providing vital energy, water and food security. Further adaptation initiatives and research are required in Europe to understand this nexus of energy, water and food security with islands, coasts, countries and regions.  

 

Offshore wind and oceans resources, and offshore wind and ocean energy development along with related grid infrastructure, can provide greater energy and water security, while supporting and sustainable economic development for coast and oceans.  For example, there are excellent initiatives underway with the application of the Renewable Grids Initiative and marine spatial planning for marine renewable energy and offshore grid infrastructure in the North Sea, which will benefit all of Europe once implemented.

 

Because there is the possibility of displacing imported hydrocarbons for electricity generation and transportation, there also real opportunities for the use and integration of renewable energy particularly for northern and southern regions, and remote locations within  Europe. Appropriately designed climate finance and international, European and national climate financing instruments along with climate mitigation measures - such as carbon sequestration, and emissions reduction and trading regimes - can underpin and financially support these renewable opportunities.

 

Another aspect of European energy policy and adaptation is the integration of energy, water, cooling and heat systems and the clarifying the role that more sustainable energy can play in coasts, islands and watershed regions in managing for managing seasonal flooding, and the increased heat and aridity occurring. In turn, these measures will support improvements in the built environment and coastal and island infrastructure, and more sustainable communities and tourism development.

 

Many coastal and island communities have significant energy needs for heating and cooling that will be aggravated by climate shifts and increasing economic development and human settlement. In so doing, these communities may rely on imported hydrocarbons for electricity generation, transportation and the provision of water services. However, renewable energy resources - such as hydro, geothermal, wind, and ocean - may also be available. Longstanding issues of water quality, sanitation and the treatment of waste water, and heating and cooling services, could also be addressed by cleaner and more sustainable energy development.

 

Adaptation Governance for Climate and Energy

 

Integrating energy policy and adaptation requires changes in how government and communities engage and interact. Climate, economic, environmental and societal stresses will be magnified without appropriate decision making processes for people, communities, businesses and governments. Vulnerabilities, impacts and adaptations differ across Europe given such factors as geographical location, heritage and ethnicity, socio-economic status, occupation and business, and prosperity.

 

Local, national and regional decision-making and leadership is required to adapt to change.  Complexity and uncertainty around climate and other changes make existing governance approaches and structures inadequate.

 

Hierarchical and regulatory models of decision making will not be as successful, given the expanding and exponential nature of change and increasing citizen expectations of participation and informed decision making.

 

Without decentralization and greater access to decision making, local and traditional knowledge will not be incorporated into decisions for the businesses, communities and peoples most affected by change.

 

Effective adaptation governance requires scientific and societal understanding of vulnerabilities, impacts and adaptation, supported by scaled-down scenario building and forecasts. Foresight and shared learning are key aspects of integrating scientific and social scenarios and successful decision processes, and can engage people in thinking and learning about the future together, so robust responses and commitments can be developed.

 

Extensive communication and continuous interactive dialogue is necessary among people, communities and governments to equitably and ethically allocate the benefits, burdens and risk of adaptation, and to make societal choices on adaptation that will be broadly accepted and implemented.

 

This communication and dialogue can incorporate web based platforms and social media to provide wide-spread real-time access to monitoring, information and analysis; and to support communications and interactive dialogue among governments and  stakeholders. Internet-based platforms, facilitated by satellite and space technology, are already prevalent in much of the Europe.

 

Academic institutions and networks, and civil society organizations can play very useful in facilitating and supporting this communication and dialogue, as well as providing trusted objective scientific knowledge, and contextual knowledge and information, to their communities and all levels of government.

 

Further information:

Dr. Magdalena A.K. Muir closely follows European developments and impacts of climate change for coastal and marine biodiversity and ecosystems, fresh water, sustainable energy development and infrastructure in coastal and marine zones, and ocean acidification. In this capacity, she participates in governance and policy development for climate adaptation and mitigation, sustainable energy development and ocean acidification at the European, Mediterranean, Nordic level, and UN level, working with projects at the local level. She can be contacted directly atmakmuir@ieels.com and mamuir@ucalgary.ca

The Sustainable Energy Development Project is implemented by the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) in cooperation with the Arctic Institute of North America and other institutions and programs at the University of Calgary; the Masters of Science- Energy Policy and Climate Program at John Hopkins University in Washington DC;  the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences and the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (or NCoE NORD-STAR); and with the Center for Carbon-free Power Integration and the Mangone Center for Marine Policy in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment at the University of Delaware.

The Adaptation Governance for Global and Climate Change Project addresses adaptation governance, and making the most effective societal decisions to enable adaptation to changes at local and regional scales.  The adaptive research is being implemented in cooperation with other academic institutions and colleagues, local and international communities and organizations, and communications and scenario development specialists.

The Aarhus School of Business and Social Science at Aarhus University, and the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research. By pursuing innovative science, sound economic analysis and effective communication, NCoE NORD-STAR's enables Nordic decision makers and stakeholders to design and implement successful adaptation policy and practice. John Hopkins University's Energy Policy and Climate Program, and the Nicholas School of Environment at Duke University are supporting and collaborating in adaptive governance research projects. Civil society organizations such as the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) and the Sustainable Cities Initiative Energy Lab engage local communities and all levels of governments in these efforts.

Please see the following web links for further information:

http://www.eucc.net/en/climate_change/index.htm

http://arctic.ucalgary.ca/research/sustainable_energy_development

http://arctic.ucalgary.ca/research/adaptation-governance

 

 

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Mark Halle

Executive Director

International Institute for Sustainable Development

Posted on: 05/07/2013

The news media have given wide play to the report that concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have been measured for the first time at over 400 parts per million at the reference base-station of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, thousands of kilometres from any conceivable major distortion.  Reflecting on this news Martin Wolf, the legendary Financial Times economics columnist, urges us to accept that we are unlikely to take the action needed to avoid catastrophe in time and explores – persuasively - some of the reasons why this is so.  Anyone who has followed twenty years of multilateral climate negotiations will need no convincing.  The level of effort and the pace of progress simply do not begin to measure up to the challenge posed by both climate change and energy demand.

 

So the first reaction to the question posed - is climate and energy policy adapting fast enough? – is bewilderment.  It is hard to imagine that there is a single serious observer of climate and energy policy who thinks things are going just swimmingly.  To believe that one would have to be a stalwart member of the climate change denial camp, or believe that the direction we are going is desirable because it will speed up the Apocalypse and the second coming of the Messiah.

 

Climate policy (at least climate change mitigation policy) must be built around the need to reduce the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  Most of these come in turn from the use of carbon-based fuels, so energy policy must revolve around how to meet the growing energy needs of humanity without aggravating climate change – in short, how to meet energy needs while cutting back on the use of carbon-based (and especially fossil) fuels.  Crossing the 400 ppm threshold very much points to climate and energy policy either being misguided or not unfolding at an adequate pace.

 

Recent discoveries of massive reserves of shale gas and techniques to exploit them economically suggest that, if we are unable to wean ourselves off all fossil fuels, we might at least be able to favour cleaner ones over the dirtier alternatives, and especially coal.  This is good news, or would be if the new gas reserves were used as a transition fuel, helping us across the bridge to renewable energy.  Unfortunately, there is little sign that this is how the windfall fuels are being approached.  Countries are focused on the geo-political implications (reduced dependence on the Middle East for oil, or on Russia for gas) and, if anything, are rubbing their hands with glee that energy conservation is now not nearly such an immediate priority.  In the words of Hunter Lovins, shale oil and shale gas are not being seen as transition fuels, but as “party on” fuels.

 

Further, the discovery of abundant sources of new fossil energy has and will continue to have the effect of lowering the cost of fossil fuels which, absent other policy interventions, will simply make energy conservation and renewable energy less competitive.  If, for reasons of climate policy, we need to prevent this chilling effect from taking place, we need to be proactive in taking policy steps – such as agreeing a carbon price – that will achieve the desired result.

 

Energy policy must focus on meeting the growing energy needs of humanity, especially the poor and those deprived of access to modern energy sources, and to do so in a way that does not exacerbate climate change.  China, for example, has focused on the former but unfortunately to a large extent at the expense of the latter.  Few countries have managed to advance the two goals together.

 

In policy development, it is usual to set the goal and then seek to identify the optimal path to that goal.  Once these are agreed, there will be a range of policy tools available, some better and some worse, some cheaper and some more expensive, some political divisive and others more acceptable.  A sensible government will look for the best pathway taking all of these factors into account.  Unfortunately, however, with climate change especially but also with energy, we are setting the policy without a clear agreement on goals and optimal pathways, so it is not surprising that we end up with a dog’s breakfast.

 

There is an apt expression: ‘if we don’t change direction, we will end up where we are headed’.  Breaking the 400 ppm barrier suggests we are beginning to reach the destination towards which our behaviour has been heading for some time now. How could we have expected any different outcome?”

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Carlo Peano

Independent Consultant

Carlo Peano - Independent Consultant

Posted on: 06/07/2013

The climate and energy policy is not adapting fast enough to the environmental problems. A clear example of this is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In 2013, the carbon dioxide has exceeded the threshold of 400 part per million (ppm) for the first time in the history. If we compare this concentration with that ones of 1880 (295 ppm) and 1960 (315 ppm), it is easy to see how the condition is getting worse.

Furthermore, it is clear that the climate and energy policy is not enough effective when we see the investments in fossil fuel reserves and in clean energy. Investment in fossil fuel reserves for the next ten years are estimated to be some US$ 6 trillion by a recent report by Carbon Tracker, despite the International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning that two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves need to stay underground if we want to prevent that the global average temperature increases of 2ºC. At the same time, worldwide clean energy investment falls to US$ 269 million in 2013. Investment in fuel reserves instead of green energy is the direct consequence of an inappropriate climate and energy policy. 

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Jon Fuller

Group Coordinator

Friends of the Earth

Posted on: 07/07/2013

A few months ago the scientific community gave the world two very unwelcome items of news.

 

1. The rapid melting of the arctic ice sheet was happening far more quickly than climate modelling had predicted and was having the unexpected effect of destabilising the jet stream, bringing prolonged periods of unusually cold weather to the UK. This destabilisation has been detected around the northern hemisphere, with unusually warm air and unusually cold air settling over other countries.  The implications are serious - climate is more susceptible to change than previously thought and the changes we are seeing will seriously disrupt agricultural production.

 

2. The DARA group of scientists warned that climate change was contributing to the death of around 400,000 people annually.  This follows recent dire warnings about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe from the WHO and UNEP. 

So the answer to the question is obvious. No !  Policy is not adapting fast enough.

 

Concerned citizens need to demand immediate and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid unprecedented loss of life.  While pressing incredibly hard for that we must also understand that policy will not change quickly enough to avoid the runaway greenhouse effect. So we need to accept immediate trials into the various geo-engineering options.  There can be no guarantee that geo-engineering will work, so we need to know what our fall back options are in time for any negative result to inform energy policy before climate hits the point of no return.

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Ross Kaminsky

Fellow

Heartland Institute

Posted on: 08/07/2013

It is an even greater heresy on the European side of the Atlantic than here, but I will say it anyway: The problem with current government “climate and energy policies” is that they exist.

It is impossible for government policy in any area, but especially this area, to “adapt fast enough.”

There are two key reasons: First, government has no idea what it is adapting to. In the 1970s, publications large and small predicted the demise of life as we know it due to global cooling. Dozens of Chicken Little headlines worried aloud about “the next ice age.”

Just as today, people used the fallacious “argument from authority” such as in a 1979 article in the Spokane Daily Chronicle entitled “Get Ready to Freeze” which said that “It’s (Isaac) Asimov’s contention that the world could be headed for another Ice Age…and with an energy shortage, yet!”

Similarly, we routinely hear the claim, both meaningless and false, that over 90 percent of scientists believe in manmade global warming.

Apparently they believe it so much that after years of the planet not warming, now at 15 years and counting, they changed the terminology from global warming to climate change. As if the climate were ever likely not to change.

One dictionary definition of adaptation is “a form or structure modified to fit a changed environment.” It is essentially impossible to adapt to unknown future changes. And despite the shrill cries of those who make careers and profits by claiming that they know what is coming next, years and decades of evidence prove they don’t.

The lack of understanding what we would be adapting to makes policy adaptation a fool’s errand.

Another reason that energy policy can’t adapt fast enough is that bureaucrats and politicians are always a step, or a mile, behind developments within the private sector so they never have enough information to make smart decisions. That is to say, they have even less valid information than most bureaucrats in other policy areas.

Furthermore, with bureaucrats not having, and sometimes explicitly opposing a profit motive, they tend to live a world devoid of creativity or outside-the-box thinking, instead focused on maintaining their own fiefdoms. If bureaucrats were smarter or cleverer, they would work for the private sector anyway. The fact that they don’t means not only that they can’t adapt fast enough but that they have motivation to stifle private sector adaptation.

The only way out of these problems is to eliminate as much as possible all “climate and energy policy” other than those policies which address true “tragedy of the commons” property issues, such as air and water pollution – and among these only things which are really pollution, such as sulfur, particulate matter, and other poisons, but not down to the last and most expensive-to-remove particle per billion, and not faux pollutants like carbon dioxide, better known as plant food.

Asking for a government energy and climate policy to “adapt fast enough” is like asking my dog to behave like a cat. Even the best-trained dog won’t do a good job of it, and there’s no way that the EU or the US Department of Energy or any other group of politicians and bureaucrats are the best-trained dog. 

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Mukund Bhagwat

Corporate Energy Affairs

AURUBIS

Posted on: 09/07/2013

No.  It is not adapting fast enough.  The following examples illustrate this. 

1. While the economic crisis has affected the basic industry such as Copper processing, there is not enough information about the support the industry can get to prevent the carbon leakage.   For example, the amount of free allocation for direct emissions for 2013 is not yet known even though the compliance period has already started. 

2. Even though the Environmental State Aid Guidelines for giving the financial compensation for indirect emissions have been published, many of the member states have still not published the amount of aid they are likely to give to the industry. 

3. The allowed support is based on historic average production level.  So for those sectors like Copper for which the worldwide demand is still growing, the European manufacturers who wish to expand in Europe, get progressively decreasing help, exposing them progressively more to Carbon leakage with respect to their global competitors. 

4. Policy intervention initiatives like 'back-loading' are undermining the trust in ETS, the market based instrument. 

5. RE support schemes are imposing unbearable burdens on the industry as well as affecting the grid stability and supply security to the Energy Intensive Industry. 

6. A long term EU policy beyond 2030 is needed a.s.a.p. making the industrial policy goal of "20% industrial activity" as the main objective, which is to be supported by other complementary policies such as climate and energy. 

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Jaime Saldarriaga

Researcher

Independent

Posted on: 06/07/2013

Climate is a global phenomenon. It is somehow influenced by human beings, to some extent, not totally. There are other natural factors that influence climate. How this is happening exactly, we don't know, and therefore we must accept a high degree of uncertainty in climate variations in the future. Also, climate is a phenomenon that happens in space and time with large variations. We must accept it is a complex phenomenon. 

 

That being said, what is the global challenge that climate variations (I prefer to use this word) is posing to humankind?. To me it is a matter of doing a very close monitoring and followup of climatic variables in space and time. I do not feel satisfied by reading the results obtained by the IPCC some years ago without observing continuously what is going on with climatic variables in space and time around the globe. 

 

In my opinion, it is necessary to develop a climatic global model under the auspices, supervision and control of United Nations, with some specific characteristics that make it acceptable to all nations, or at least to a number of nations representing more than 50% of the human population of the world. This model needs to be reviewed and improved on a continuous basis.

 

Global Energy Policy should then follow UN rules.

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