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Doing business as usual will be a recipe for failure at the decisive climate meeting in Paris next December. 20 previous world climate conferences have shown this; and the two-week Bonn preparatory meeting of environment ministers in in May has offered very little hope for an outcome that will prevent an unsustainable temperature rise in the course of the century.
To avoid such a failure COP 21 has to adopt a radically new format.
Prime ministers will need to be present throughout the conference and take concrete energy policy commitments to be implemented within a given time frame. Halting a further increase of emissions after 2020 must be the top priority.
The “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) are a first step in that direction. They create new transparency and – differentiated – commitments for individual countries. But those presented so far to the UN fall far short from containing global temperature within the two-centigrade increase considered as sustainable by Humanity.
The International Energy Agency, that groups the biggest per capita green house gas emitters, has presented a succinct road map for what governments should do concretely in order to tackle their emissions. This is the first time ever this happens before a COP meeting; the COP 21 should agree on this road-map before getting lost in its usual agenda points:
Presently 13 per cent of global energy-related emissions benefit from such subsidies at a level of $ 113/ton of C02. Several countries in the Middle East, South-East Asia and Latin America will have to correct their policies.
This is above all an issue for USA, India and some South-East Asian countries.
Raising energy efficiency must be the top priority for all countries. This is done most easily by the introduction of technical standards for fuel consumption of cars and trucks, insulation of buildings, etc. USA and EU have best demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach. All other major emitter countries should therefore follow their example.
If all major energy consumer countries followed these basic recommendations, energy-related emissions would start declining by 2030. The use of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, would accelerate its phasing out; and China would see its emission growth decouple from its economic development by 2020.
The Paris conference will only be successful in substance if the main parties agree to improve their INDCs and the underlying energy policies to keep the world on a “two centigrade track”. This should therefore be the overriding priority for the French host and the Conference Chair.
Brussels 20.06. 2015 Eberhard Rhein
In the last eight years US energy and climate policy has made impressive strides towards sustainability. This is due essentially to President Obama who has invested more in climate policy than any other US President, overcoming the ideological opposition from public opinion and Congress through recourse to executive orders.
Over decades US fossil energy consumption and green house emissions have kept soaring. With some 17 tons per capita emissions they were among the highest on earth, comparable to those of Gulf countries, Canada and Australia.
In 2014 US emissions have, for the first time ever, registered a decline. The government projects a decline of at least 27 per cent until 2030 compared to 2005. This would still leave per capita emissions at unacceptably high levels, about 50 per cent higher than those of the EU (seven tons).
The US policy is essentially based on raising energy efficiency. The Environmental Protection Agency plays a crucial role, usually in conjunction with Transport and Energy Departments.
“Technical standards” are the name of their magical formula. For their definitionthey explore the optimum of energy and minimum of emissions (e.g. CO2 ) that can be “squeezed” out of a ton of coal, oil or gas, first with available and then with innovative technologies. On that basis they elaborate standards for cars, high duty vehicles, power plants and air planes, in close collaboration with the stakeholders from industry and trade unions. To facilitate their acceptance, the introduction takes place in phases stretching over several years.
This technique is similar to what the EU is also doing, in particular for cars. But while the EU operate in abstract terms of CO2 emissions (e.g. fleet average of 125 g per km)the US establishes consumption levels (gallons per 100 miles).
The US approach directly shows consumers the economic advantages stemming from the policy measures. The EPA keeps “selling” them.
An example are the latest efficiency and emission standards for medium and high duty vehicles,for which will be introduced progressively from 2016 to the mid-twenties. The extra costs of the vehicles will be recouped within only two years and yield an high profitability for vehicle owners.
The US has put priority on sectors consuming most fossil energy.
Road transport has been the first target, first cars and light weight vehicles, followed by that medium and heavy duty vehicles account for almost 23 per cent of US domestic green house gases.
Fossil-fuel power generation, in particular coal power plants, have been tackled in parallel. Fossil-fuel power plants account for almost one third of domestic green house gas emissions, the single most important consumer of fossil fuels.
Air transport, which accounts for 3 per cent of total US green house power emissions, will be the next target to be addressed domestically and internationally, in the context of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, with the hope of establishing standards before 2020. That would be a great performance considering the continuous increase of global air traffic.
The US approach is at least as pragmatic and cost-effective as the EU method of progressively reducing emissions from power plants, steel, glass, pulp/paper, copper, aluminium and other energy-intensive industries.
In addition, the US promotes biofuels, solar and wind, through a combination of tax credits, subsidies and feed-in tariffs. Though it has not not established mandatory federal targets, 11 per cent of national energy have been generated in 2013 by renewable sources, essentially hydro, wind and solar.
In conclusion, since 2008 the US has become one of the vanguards of global energy and climate policy. But it has a very long way to go bring US emissions down to acceptable level. It considers innovation and technology as the key to phasing out green house gas emissions by the end of the century and has properly adopted a strategic long-term approach.
Brussels 22.06 2015 Eberhard Rhein
Boeing outlined at Le Bourget in France a variety of leading-edge technologies with the potential to make the flying experience more comfortable and exciting, as well as making airplanes more economical and efficient. Boeing presented an overview of its research and development efforts at the Paris Air Show.
“We really feel that we’ve taken our airplane designs to the next level,” said Mike Sinnett, vice president of Product Development, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “For nearly 100 years, Boeing has delivered market-leading innovations to airlines around the world. Our latest technological advancements reinforce our commitment to innovation leadership.”
Sinnett described innovations in operational efficiency, connectivity, advanced materials, cabin experience and advanced technologies that demonstrate Boeing’s market-leading focus on future technology. Boeing’s focus on innovation also extends to its production systems and the services it provides to airline customers.Some of the advances being developed include: