IEA: Energy security to come from mitigating climate change

The global economic slowdown cannot distract policymakers worldwide from progressing on climate change mitigation efforts through international accords and related national energy policies, IEA said.

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Dec. 9 -- The global economic slowdown cannot distract policymakers worldwide from progressing on climate change mitigation efforts through international accords and related national energy policies, said Richard J. Jones, deputy executive director of the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

"Mitigating climate change will substantially improve energy security," Jones told a Dec. 9 energy forum at Rice University's James Baker Institute for Public Policy. "I personally believe investment in energy is a sound way to create jobs and get out of economic crisis."

Referring to IEA's World Energy Outlook 2008 report (WEO2008), Jones said a new international climate agreement is the first step toward a sustainable energy system. Effective implementation of such a system is crucial, he said.

Governments will have to provide financial incentives and regulatory frameworks that support both energy security and climate policy goals in an integrated way, said Jones, a former US ambassador to Israel, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, and Lebanon. He became IEA deputy executive director on Oct. 1.

Massive investments in energy are needed, he said, citing an IEA reference scenario that calls for cumulative investment of more than $26 trillion (in 2007 dollars) during 2007-30. That investment is $4 trillion higher IEA calculated in its WEO2007 report, largely because of increased costs in the oil and gas industry.

Energy investments needed
The WEO2008 report was released last month. Of the latest investment scenario, the power sector accounts for $13.6 trillion while most of the rest goes to oil and gas, mainly for exploration and development and mostly in countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The current financial crisis is not expected to affect long-term investment, but could delay bringing current projects to completion, IEA said. Just over half of projected global energy investment in 2007-30 goes simply to maintain the current level of supply capacity.

"Much of the world's current infrastructure for supplying oil, gas, coal, and electricity will need to be replaced by 2030," Jones said. "We have to run faster just to keep in place."

Future investments in energy infrastructure hinge upon successful negotiations of an international agreement on combating climate change, he said, noting that on current trends, energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will rise inexorably, pushing average global temperature by as much as 6° C. in the long term, he said.

Jones said the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP), scheduled in November 2009 in Copenhagen, provides an opportunity for policymakers to negotiate a new global climate change policy regime going beyond 2012, which is the final year of coverage of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period.

The COP needs to establish a framework for long-term cooperative action toward a clear global goal for stabilizing the volumes of GHG emissions being released into the atmosphere, he said.

The energy sector will have to play the central role in curbing GHG emissions—through major improvements in efficiency and rapid switching to renewables and other low-carbon technologies, including carbon capture and storage, he said.

"Carbon capture and storage will require creation of a huge infrastructure," Jones said, adding this effort will create jobs while cutting GHG emissions.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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