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Energy leaders give stark warning on climate change

Climate change experts have warned that the international community must do more to halt global warming, writes Helen Robertson

Yvo De Boer, a climate change and sustainability advisor at KPMG, said that since the Copenhagen talks in 2009, climate change has been “off the international political agenda” and this has put the world at great risk of catastrophic environmental change.

The next international climate change talks are due to take place in Paris in 2015. International negotiators will aim to commit all nations to agree to take action on climate change.“I would concentrate (the talks) on a limited set of issues that first get the international political process moving again, define commitments with what is currently economically realistic and create a pathway to enhance action over time,” De Boer told delegates attending the energy and climate scenarios panel session on Monday.  

However he added that legally binding climate change targets must be avoided “because they are impossible to implement”.

De Boer said political leaders may be forced to deal with “short-term pain, long-term gain” in terms of the costs of implementing carbon reduction schemes. Political leaders must also form agreements to help developing countries deal with the effects of climate change, he said.

Brian Dames, chief executive of South African utility Eskom, said as Africa’s electricity demand rises mitigating the effects of climate change are more important than ever on water-poor continents.“We have to monitor very carefully changes in technology and society and who is connected to the grid,” Dames said. “Water availability is the biggest issue for Africa in terms of climate change. Re-use of water becomes crucially important.”

Ged Davies, chief executive of the Forescene SA consultancy, said we are unlikely to keep global temperature rises to within 2 degrees Celsius – the level climate scientists say would be a crucial tipping point in bringing about irreversible and damaging climate change.

“The starting point has to be the development of climate science,” Davies said. He added that the industry must communicate better the effects of climate to the public to help push it to the top of political agendas worldwide. Developing effective carbon markets would also help provide an incentive for nations to tackle climate change, he said. “The disappointments in Europe’s (emissions trading scheme) haven’t helped others,” he said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that we are not on track to limit a global temperature rise to within 2 degrees. Last year energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.4% to a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes, the IEA said. The IEA said if we continue to emit such high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions global temperatures are more likely to rise by between 3.6 and 5.3 degrees celsius. This could have disastrous environmental, social and economic costs.

The IEA said there are four main ways we can cut carbon emissions including limiting the use of inefficient coal plants and improving energy efficiency. Halving methane emissions from the upstream oil and gas industry and cutting fossil fuel subsidies could cut global CO2 emissions by as much as 30%, the agency said.

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