Falling CO2 emissions
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Industry reducing world CO2 emissions despite failure to implement Kyoto

Voluntary actions by industry, are leading to small but significant reductions in emissions of global warming gases world-wide, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Energy Council (WEC). This despite the stalling of the Climate Change talks in the Hague last year.

Studies by the WEC indicate that new voluntary clean energy schemes will save the equivalent of one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (C02) annually by 2005. This amounts to over three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2000 and the savings may be greater. Projects planned or in the pipeline could raise them as high as two billion tonnes by 2005. Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director, of UNEP said that the pessimism and gloom hanging over the Climate Change talks, which are set to resume in Bonn on July 19, had masked small but real progress towards reducing emissions.  He highlighted progress 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 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.

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California conclude that China's emissions are already 400 to 900 million tonnes below those expected in 2000. This is equivalent to all C02 emissions from Canada (400M tonnes), or Germany, (900M tonnes).

In the United States, although greenhouse gas emissions grew from 4.8 in 1990 to over 5.4 billion tonnes in 1998, the amount emitted per unit of GDP or economic growth declined by 11 per cent. These figures take no account of the carbon sequestered in reforestation and reduced agricultural land use, both of which are increasing with economic development (See here).

"The fact that two of the most important countries at the centre of the global warming debate are acting, and are managing to break the link between growth and a parallel rise in emissions, offers an important glimmer of hope which must be built on. We must do more, we have to do more. But the march to a less polluting world has begun and must be helped to continue even if there are disagreements between governments about the science and the need for legally binding emission reduction targets," said Mr Toepfer.

His comments come in advance of a report, to be launched in July, by the G8 Renewable Energy Task Force, which has been studying the global prospects for green energy schemes.

Elena Virkkala Nekhaev, manager of programmes at the WEC, said: "There is a general 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. Indeed 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 CO2, will be saved annually by such projects by 2005 whether or not the Kyoto Protcol is ratified".

"Some of these clean energy schemes and conservation programmes may have other goals such as improving local air pollution, road congestion and peoples' health. But the end result is an important saving of greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

Mark Radka, UNEP's Energy Programme Coordinator, said: "In many countries like China old and inefficient power generation equipment is being retired and new, more efficient, power stations are starting to come on line. It is estimated that, over the next 20 years, some $15 trillion worth of investment is going to be made in energy infrastructure. This is a golden opportunity to make the world less dependent on fossil fuels and less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. We must work hard to ensure that only the most energy efficient plant is built and, where appropriate, renewables are introduced. UNEP and WEC's assessment is that industry, many governments and organisations are rising to challenge despite uncertainties over the Kyoto process. There is cautious cause for optimism".

The C02 savings are coming from over 600 projects registered in the WEC's database. These projects are just completed, under construction or planned in the next few years. Some of the schemes involve the retiring of old and inefficient power plants in favour of modern, cleaner burning ones. Others involve fitting existing power plants with energy efficient equipment or choosing renewables over diesel, coal or oil generation. Projects also include some tree planting schemes designed to soak up C02, energy conservation measures and ones, such as those in Belgium, to reduce car use and emissions by restricting motor vehicle access to city centres.

Examples include a tidal power scheme in Australia designed to save 210 kilotonnes of C02 by substituting for diesel generators and a big wind power project Turkey that aims to save 940 kilotonnes. Others include a new, 1290MW combined-cycle power station in Rasht, Iran, saving 5,600 kilotonnes and a power station in Wisconisn, United States, that will save 1,107 kilotonnes by switching to gas.

The World Energy Council was founded in 1923 and is a UN-accredited, UK-registered charity, based in London. It has established a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Pilot Programme and has recorded emissions reduction projects around the world in a comprehensive database located at www.worldenergy.org/ghg.

The report on China's emission reductions is authored by Jonathan Sinton and David Fridley of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and published in the journal Sinosphere.

iGreen comments

The above is all from a WEC press release (29 June 2001). You wonít have read about it in your local paper because itís good news on global warming.

Why does Toepfer say "China has, despite economic growth Ö managed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17 per cent? "Because" would be a better word.

Compare the savings from the Australian tidal project and the Turkish wind power project with those from the combined-cycle power station in Iran.


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Last modified: September 20, 2006