The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its latest World Energy Outlook report today, warning world leaders that climate change will be irreversible it they don’t take strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next five years. This is what Greenpeace has been saying for years; the increase in average global temperature must be kept to 2 degrees Celsius.
The new IEA report also moves a bit closer to Greenpeace’s analysis that the world needs an Energy [R]evolution, with much more of our energy demands filled by renewable energy, along with energy conservation.
Despite this, the IEA continues to be driven by political agendas. This latest report is no different, with the IEA putting politics ahead of science, by suggesting that a reduction in nuclear power will lead to higher energy costs and higher greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, the opposite is the case. A combination of energy efficiency and various sources of renewable energy would pave the way forward to a complete phase-out of nuclear power by 2035, while lowering electricity costs and reducing carbon emissions.
Yet, the IEA continues to show a prominent role for nuclear power and for coal plants that capture CO2 in its scenarios. This is despite the obvious failure of these two energy technologies to deliver ─ due to unrealistic growth scenarios for nuclear energy, and to the false expectations that CCS (carbon-capture and storage) can actually work to reduce emissions from coal-fired electricity plants. The IEA also continues to talk incorrectly about “horror scenarios” of increased costs and increases in greenhouse gas emissions if nuclear energy is phased out.
The World Energy Outlook continues the IEA’s tendency to underestimate growth in renewable energy, while and overestimating potential nuclear growth. The IEA’s projections for growth in renewables are significantly lower than those made by either the renewable industry or Greenpeace, even though both our projections and the industry’s have been proved right in recent years.
We are confident that by 2015, the IEA’s Outlook reports will finally start acknowledging the inevitability of an energy scenario dominated by renewable energy, combined with energy efficiency – the practical way forward for protecting us from climate chaos. This scenario would also provide the poor with access to energy at an affordable cost, and energy supplies would be secure and immune to the volatility of fossil fuel markets.
On coal, the IEA projects a level of expansion – especially in China and India – that would be very dark for the climate and for the future development of a sustainable energy supply. All countries need to phase out coal, including China and India, if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change. The IEA is wrong in its assumption that coal can ease the problem of access to energy in developing countries. Decentralized renewable energy can be implemented much faster than centralized fossil power plants – especially in remote rural areas where the majority of people,who have no access the energy, live.
Greenpeace calls for an “access to renewable energy program” and a complete phase out of fossil fuel subsidies. In 2010 alone, governments around the world spent over US$ 400 billion to subsidize fossil fuels – twice as much as the entire spending on the global renewable energy market in 2010. By switching policies from fossil and nuclear fuels towards renewables, the investments would go in the right direction: to new renewable energy services.
Find out more about the Energy [R]evolution
World Energy Outlook
Analysis: Energy [R]evolution vs. IEA World Energy Outlook scenario 2011
Sven Teske is a senior energy expert at Greenpeace International