News > Climate conference set for gloomy forecast
Today sees the start of the UN Climate Change Conference in the German city of Bonn, and it looks set to be a gloomy affair. When they take their seats the 180 delegates attending are not going to be presented with a wealth of good news. According to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), greenhouse gas emissions are going up instead of down despite 20 years of international effort, and hit record highs in 2010. Despite the expansion of renewable energy around the world, the IEA's report said energy-related carbon emissions last year topped 30 gigatons, outstripping the previous record set in 2008 by 5%. Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, says the energy trend should be a wake-up call to the global community. Dr. Birol suggested that the figures are a serious setback to hopes of limiting the rise in the Earth's average temperature to 2°C degrees above preindustrial levels. Any rise beyond that, scientists believe, could lead to catastrophic climate shifts affecting water supplies and global agriculture, setting off more frequent and fierce storms and causing a rise in sea levels that would endanger coastlines.
There is also the issue of the Japanese tsunami. The nuclear disaster the event triggered has sidelined Japan's aggressive policies to combat climate change as the country struggles to cope with the after effects of the twin disasters. "Japan's energy future is in limbo," says analyst Endre Tvinnereim of the consultancy firm Point Carbon. The fallout from the catastrophe has "put climate policy further down the priority list," and the short-term effect in Japan - one of the world's most carbon-efficient countries - will be for the moment at least the burning of more fossil fuels, he said. It also prompted countries like Germany to hasten the decommissioning of nuclear power stations which, regardless of other drawbacks, have nearly zero carbon emissions, which cannot be said for any of the alternative methods capable of matching capacity at the present time. The report concludes that with energy investments locked into coal- and oil-fuelled infrastructure, that situation will change little over the next decade.