Monday, September 21, 2009

Financial crisis driving down emissions: report

ABC News Online, Sep 21, 2009
New figures suggest the economic downturn has led to the biggest fall in carbon emissions in more than three decades.
But although the economic downturn is driving down emissions, the figures suggest that carbon trading schemes - like those in the European Union - are also contributing to the decline.
With the developed world's reliance on fossil fuels, there is a well-known link between economic activity and carbon pollution.
A global summary being prepared by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests it has been a substantial decline.
John Connor, the executive director of the Climate Institute, says it is no surprise.
"This study appears to be saying there is definitely that effect... for a century or so, economic output has been one of the drivers of pollution, carbon pollution," he said.
"But what we're actually beginning to see now is a shift, so that there is actually a de-coupling and it's obviously the main thing we need to do in global climate negotiations and other matters."

'Unprecedented fall'

The scale of the fall will not be revealed until later this month, but reports suggest it is an unprecedented amount, bigger even than the decline in carbon emissions that accompanied the world's last major recession in the early 1980s.
But it has not been entirely due to reduced economic activity. The agency estimates about a quarter of the reduction it has identified is the result of regulation.
"What this study does seem to show is that that's starting to have some teeth, so the Europe's emissions trading scheme and indeed even China's energy efficient output is actually driving some big changes in emissions," Mr Connor said.
The IEA's chief economist says the figures show it is much less difficult for the world to achieve the reductions in carbon emissions that scientists are saying will be needed.
Mr Connor says it is also evidence that the way of doing that is to disconnect economic growth from fossil fuels.
"Policies are actually driving the changes, but also that there's movement from economies that are actually seeing the opportunities," he said.
"And there's no question this is an economic transformation, but it's as much a question about competitiveness and productivity, in this instance carbon productivity, then anything else.
"So what we want to see is finance ministers and treasuries and economic ministers engaged in this task, seeing that there are opportunities here, seeing what every other economic analyst and model has shown, that we can significantly reduce carbon pollution and still grow economies."
The report suggests that the shelving of coal-fired power stations is having an impact as well.

Emission acceleration?

Mr Connor says that if the global economy comes out of the current downturn, there will be a rapid acceleration in carbon emissions.
"There's been a bit of a lull in Australia's emissions it would seem... our underlying economy rests on springs that are still fairly polluting," he said.
"Once we get moving again, emissions will rise unless we put strong policies in.
"The renewable energy target here is an important one, but we need economy-wide measures and that is why we need them globally as well and why Copenhagen is important.
"I think the author of the report notes that Copenhagen is actually a key opportunity to lock in a different direction, for those economies to taken advantage of the opportunities, grow economies and also cut pollution."
The IEA's report will be released just ahead of the next round of global climate negotiations in Bangkok at the end of the month.

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