Clean energy schemes show results

Posted: 2 August 2001

Voluntary actions by industry, governments and organizations are leading to small but significant reductions in emissions of global warming gases world-wide, according to research by the World Energy Council (WEC).

The findings challenge the widely-held belief that the stalling of the Climate Change talks in the Hague and political disagreements over the science and the need for legally binding reduction targets have paralyzed the world-wide effort to fight global warming.

Studies by the WEC indicate that the number of new clean energy schemes, government initiatives and renewable energy projects will, by 2005, save equivalent of one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (C02) annually. This equates to a saving of over three per cent in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the year 2000.

The figure of one billion tonnes may be a dramatic understatement A survey of 91 countries indicates the actual level of additional projects planned or in the pipeline could raise the global C02 savings as high as two billion tonnes (two gigatonnes) by 2005 or six per cent of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, of the UN Environment Programme said that the pessimism and gloom hanging over the Climate Change talks, had masked small but real progress towards reducing emissions.

He highlighted the progress with the achievements made in China, which accounts for 14 per cent of world C02 emissions.

"China has, despite economic growth estimated at 36 per cent, managed to reduce it carbon dioxide emissions by 17 per cent since 1996/97. The figure of 17 per cent may prove premature, with the real reduction likely to be in the range of 10 or 12 per cent, but this is still remarkable and encouraging progress. It has been achieved by an active effort to promote energy conservation, end coal subsidies and support more efficient coal-fire power generation," said Mr Toepfer.

A study by scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California concludes that China's C02 emissions are already 400 to 900 million tonnes below what was expected in 2000 which is approximately equivalent to all C02 emissions from Canada, at the low end of the range, or Germany, at the high end of the estimate.

In the United States, which at 23 per cent has the highest share of global C02 emissions, levels of the greenhouse gas have grown from 4.8 billion tonnes in 1990 to over 5.4 tonnes in 1998, the International Energy Agency and the OECD estimate.

But even in the United States improvements are being made their official statistics show. From 1990 to 1998 the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP or economic growth declined by 11 per cent.

Elena Virkkala Nekhaev, Manager of Programmes at the WEC, said: "There is a generally perception that little is happening globally to tackle climate change and that little will occur unless nations reach agreement at the upcoming talks in Bonn, Germany. But this is far from the case as our Pilot Programme on GHG Emissions Reduction demonstrates. "The sheer number of cleaner energy schemes planned and in the pipeline make us confident that two gigatonnes, or six per cent of global emissions of C02, will be saved annually by such projects by 2005 whether or not the Kyoto Protcol is ratified."

Source: UNEP News Release 01/85.