Kyoto is Not Enough: New Technologies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“Kyoto is an important step, but we need more efforts to promote energy efficiency and new technologies to cope with climate change”, said Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), today in Buenos Aires, at the UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 10). “The entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol is a success for ratifying countries, yet the targets – if they are met – are only a very small contribution towards global climate change mitigation, which requires much stronger worldwide CO2 reductions.” According to IEA statistics, world energy-related CO2 emissions are now 16.4% above their 1990 level. In 2002 alone, they increased by 2%.

The IEA acts as an advisor for its 26 member countries on energy policies. It projects in the 2004 “World Energy Outlook” that measures adopted up to the year 2003 cannot prevent a rapid increase in CO2 emissions. In a business-as usual scenario, developing countries’ emissions are projected to more than double between 2002 and 2030 (from 8.2 to 18.4 Gt CO2).

IEA analysis of an alternative policy scenario shows that emissions can be curbed, mainly through a strong push on energy efficiency policy, support to renewables and further use of nuclear, for those countries choosing to do so. A 16% reduction in emissions from business-as-usual levels could be achieved worldwide by 2030, with energy efficiency contributing to 60% of this reduction. In this alternative scenario, IEA countries would start a declining emissions trend in the 2020s. But even this alternative scenario does not bring emissions to sustainable levels worldwide in the future. It is clear that more policy efforts and technology breakthroughs are needed.

“No single energy supply technology holds the key to long-term greenhouse gas reductions”, Mandil added. “Existing technologies have to be improved, new ones developed and deployed. Several renewable technologies are achieving lower costs and gaining market competitiveness, others need technical and policy support. Nuclear, carbon capture and storage also have a role to play and hydrogen holds promise for the future.”

The IEA has already conducted a number of studies on policy and technology options that could help curbing
energy-related CO2 emissions and has identified potentials for CO2 emission reductions in electricity end-uses, transport and power generation. It launched today two new books highlighting the challenge of technology development and uptake for reducing emissions in the long term:

“Hydrogen & Fuel Cells”
Hydrogen is a clean and flexible energy carrier which can be produced from many sources such as fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear. It could be used for electricity generation, transport, residential and industrial
applications. “Along with fuel cells, hydrogen is one of the few options to become an alternative to oil and reduce emissions in the transport sector. Many countries have already embarked on hydrogen and fuel cell development in close cooperation with the industry”, said Mandil. The book lists research activities and policies in the IEA countries. It stresses that technology breakthroughs are still necessary as well as support over decades if hydrogen and fuel cell technologies are to become cost-effective solutions to reduce CO2 emissions.

“Prospects for CO2 Capture and Storage”
Fossil fuels will remain the main pillar of global energy supply. At the same time, ways have to be found to reduce CO2 emissions. One solution is CO2 capture and storage (CCS) underground, e.g. in depleted oil or gas fields or in deep saline water layers. CO2 can be captured in the electricity sector, manufacturing industry and in fuel processing. “This book suggests that CCS could provide significant emissions reductions by 2050 and that more than a third of global electricity generation may be equipped with CCS by that date. It calls upon governments to step up their support for CCS and increase research”, concluded Claude Mandil.