By Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director International Energy Agency
As international climate negotiators enter their second week of talks at COP 18 in Doha, the need to rapidly transition to a more secure, sustainable global energy system is more urgent than ever. IEA analysis shows that achieving the internationally agreed climate goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees C is becoming more difficult and more expensive with every passing year. Without concerted action soon, the world is on track for a much warmer future with possibly dire consequences. In fact, announced policies could lead to an increase of 3.5 degrees C. An increase of this magnitude could trigger widespread melting of the permafrost in Arctic regions with unpredictable results.
Clearly, carbon emissions must be dramatically reduced and the energy sector must play a key role in this. In the short term, the IEA strongly encourages all governments to enact policies that promote the rapid deployment of energy-efficiency technologies; this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and buy time to secure a much-needed global climate agreement. Strategies to “unlock” and reduce emissions by retiring high-carbon-emitting facilities must be implemented cost-effectively and equitably. Governments must develop sound domestic policies to encourage low-carbon investment, especially in emerging economies where most energy growth will take place. Measures that encourage inefficient use of energy, such as fossil fuel subsidies, must be eliminated.
Yet even if the global temperature increase is limited to only 2 degrees C, a warming planet may negatively affect our energy supply, demand and assets. In short, our energy security could be at risk. The IEA has begun working with government and industry to make our energy infrastructure more resilient in the face of extreme weather and climate change. Just as IEA strategic oil stocks enable effective response during supply disruptions, all countries must be ready to respond to the climate threat against their energy supply-and-demand infrastructure without giving up on mitigation efforts.