Sea change needed for low-carbon economy

"Exceptional" effort is needed to keep climate change at bay, a new report finds.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 20, 2017 at 8:08 AM

March 20 (UPI) -- Nearly 70 percent of all new cars need to be electric and $3.5 trillion in annual investments are needed to keep global warming at bay, a new report found.

The International Energy Agency last week said energy-related emissions were flat for the third year in a row as world economies move away from coal to cleaner-burning resources like natural gas. A new report, however, finds more work is needed to limit the rise of the global mean temperature.

A report published by the IEA and the International Renewable Energy Agency found the share of fossil fuels used to satisfy energy demand would need to be cut in half by 2050 and emissions would need to fall more than 70 percent to keep the mean temperature from rising.

"Limiting the rise in global mean temperature to well below 2 degrees Centigrade [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] would require an energy transition of exceptional scope, depth and speed," the report read.

In a list of benchmarks that would contribute to the goals outlined in the Paris climate agreement, the joint report, funded in part by the German government, said 95 percent of electricity would have to come from a low-carbon source and 70 percent of new cars would need to be electric, compared with about 30 percent and 1 percent, respectively, for levels today.

In the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster in 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered eight of the country's 17 nuclear reactors closed by the end of that year and a total shutdown by 2022. Germany as a whole now has one of the greener economies in Europe.

The United States, the world's No. 1 economy, is scaling back its climate initiatives, holding out its success in oil and gas as a form of stimulus. A report last week from the U.N. Environment Program found, however, that a more sustainable use of materials and energy could add $2 trillion to the global economy by 2050.

Adnan Z. Amin, the director-general of IRENA, said that, with the right investment strategy, major new investments are needed, but those investments reflect a small portion of the global gross domestic product.

"We are in a good position to transform the global energy system but success will depend on urgent action, as delays will raise the costs of decarburization," he said in a statement.

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