Improving energy productivity will help meet Paris objective

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It's possible to halve global carbon emissions by 2040, but governments, investors and businesses must act now to accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy systems, says a new report.
The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC), a global energy and climate group, believes that it is technically and economically feasible to grow economies and provide affordable, reliable, clean energy for all while meeting the Paris Agreement objective of limiting global warming to well below 2°C. Its new report, 'Better energy, Greater prosperity', sets out how this can be achieved and calls for stronger public policies and large-scale public and private investment.
"This ambitious target is definitely within our reach, if we consider the dramatic reduction in cost of wind and solar generation we have seen in the last few years, along with the declining cost of batteries," said Jenny Chu, head of Energy Productivity Initiatives at The Climate Group.
"In particular, the report points to the untapped potential to improve energy productivity, which is about getting more economic output from each unit of energy -- essentially doing more with less. Globally, we can achieve an average growth of 3% per annum in energy productivity, if we put in place the right enabling policies."
In the report, the ETC sets out four interdependent pathways to cut annual carbon emissions from 36 gigatonnes (Gt) today to 20 Gt by 2040:
  • Decarbonize power generation and extend electrification in the transport and buildings sectors.
  • Decarbonize activities which cannot be cost-effectively electrified -- such as aviation, shipping, and heavy industries like steel, cement or chemicals. Governments and companies need to make significant R&D and initial deployment investments to ensure that these technologies become more cost effective, the ETC says.
  • A revolution in the pace of energy productivity improvement, which could deliver a third of required emissions reductions by 2040. This would demand greatly accelerated energy efficiency progress across the buildings, transport and industry sectors, as well as structural changes in the economy to deliver more economic growth with less energy-intensive goods and services.
  • Optimize remaining fossil fuels use and ramp-up all forms of carbon capture and sequestration (such as conversion into products, underground storage and natural carbon sinks).
"We are ambitious but realistic," said Adair Turner, chair of the ETC. "Despite the scale of the challenges facing us, we firmly believe the required transition is technically and economically achievable if immediate action is taken."
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