The new report by the International Energy Agency, showing high emissions from fossil fuels, is one of several pieces of bad news facing delegates from about 180 countries heading to Bonn, Germany, for two weeks of talks beginning today.
The tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster in March apparently has sidelined Japan’s aggressive policies to combat climate change and prompted countries like Germany to hasten the decommissioning of nuclear stations which, regardless of other drawbacks, have nearly zero carbon emissions.
“Japan’s energy future is in limbo,” says analyst Endre Tvinnereim of the consultancy firm Point Carbon. The fallout from the catastrophe has “put climate policy further down the priority list,” and the short- term effect in Japan — one of the world’s most carbon -efficient countries — will be more burning of fossil fuels, he said.
And despite the expansion of renewable energy around the world, the Paris-based IEA’s report said that energy-related carbon emissions last year topped 30 gigatons, 5% more than the previous record in 2008.
With energy investments locked into coal, and oil-fuelled infrastructure, that situation will change little over the next decade, it said.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, says the energy trend should be “a wake-up call”. The figures are “a serious setback” to hopes of limiting the rise in the Earth’s average temperature to 2º Celsius (3.8º F) above preindustrial levels, he said.
Any rise beyond that, scientists believe, could lead to catastrophic climate shifts affecting water supplies and global agriculture, setting off more frequent and fierce storms and causing a rise in sea levels that would endanger coastlines.
The June 6-17 discussions in Bonn are to prepare for the annual year-end decision-making UN conference, which this year is in Durban, South Africa. Even more than previous conferences, Durban could be the forum for a major showdown between wealthy countries and the developing world.
Poor countries say that the wealthy West, whose industries overloaded the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other climate-changing gases over the last 200 years, is not doing enough to cut future pollution. A study released yesterday supports that view.
The report, based on an analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute, commissioned and released by Oxfam, found that developing countries account for 60% of the promised reductions.