Emissions have peaked! (Shame NGOs don’t call for them to do so til 2017…)

by | Sep 23, 2009


If you missed it earlier in the week, the FT’s Fiona Harvey has been given a preview of the next World Energy Outlook, which the International Energy Agency will publish in November.  Findings:

The recession has resulted in an unparalleled fall in greenhouse gas emissions, providing a “unique opportunity” to move the world away from highcarbon growth, an International Energy Agency study has found.

In the first big study of the impact of the recession on climate change, the IEA found that CO 2 emissions from burning fossil fuels had undergone “a significant decline” this year – further than in any year in the past 40. The fall will exceed the drop in the 1981 recession that followed the oil crisis. Falling industrial output is largely responsible for the plunge in CO 2 , but other factors have played a role, including the shelving of plans for new coal-fired power stations owing to falling demand and lack of financing.

For the first time, government policies to cut emissions have also had a significant impact. The IEA estimates that about a quarter of the reduction is the result of regulation, an “unprecedented” proportion. Three initiatives had a particular effect: Europe’s target to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020; US car emission standards; and China’s energy efficiency policies.

All of which brings us back to David’s prescient suggestion back in March this year that civil society “should declare 2009 the year of peak emissions and challenge the world’s governments to develop a concrete plan to ensure they are never allowed to rise again”. 

Given IEA’s data, it’s clear that’s exactly what NGOs should have done. In fact, though, the TckTckTck campaign’s policy position – their only policy position, in fact – is that emissions should peak in… 2017.

Er, thanks guys. Great agenda setting there. Don’t call us – we’ll call you.

Author

  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.


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