IPCC Report Says Clean Energy Technologies Could Curb Climate Change

May 9, 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on May 4th concluding that the world community could slow and then reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) over the next several decades by exploiting cost-effective policies and current and emerging technologies. The IPCC report emphasizes energy efficiency across all sectors: in buildings, transportation, and industry. It also calls for greater use of solar energy in buildings and biofuels in vehicles. In terms of power generation, the report points to both mature and emerging renewable energy technologies and also suggests a shift to less carbon-intensive fossil fuels and the development of carbon capture and storage technologies. The report estimates that by 2030, another $20 trillion will be spent to upgrade global energy infrastructure, and investments to reduce GHGs would add at most a 10 percent premium to those investments. See the press release from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and see the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC report (PDF 405 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

The document is the last of three working group reports that will be compiled to form the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, a follow-up to the Third Assessment Report, which was issued in 2001. The first working group report concluded that the Earth is definitely warming and recent temperature increases are very likely due to GHG emissions from human activities. The second working group report concluded that natural systems are already being affected by climate change, and predicted increasing droughts, floods, and wildfires, with potentially devastating impacts on some ecosystems and certain human societies. In Africa alone, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to an increase in water stress by 2020, while agricultural production and access to food is expected to be severely compromised in many African nations. Fresh water supplies in North America are also threatened by climate change, particularly in the West. The three working group reports are currently available in summary form on the IPCC Web site, and the full Working Group I report is also available now. See the IPCC Web site and the UNEP press releases on the general impacts and the impacts on Africa and North America.

A number of recent reports suggest their own approaches to reducing global GHG emissions. A report released in late February by the United Nations Foundation emphasizes fuel efficiency, building efficiency, biofuels, and carbon capture and storage. In late April, the National Commission on Energy Policy recommended a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions while suggesting fuel economy improvements, a national renewable energy requirement, extended tax credits for renewable energy sources, and other measures. The World Resources Institute (WRI) has its own approach, built on a Princeton University concept of "wedges." This approach breaks up the needed emissions reductions into 15 wedges, and provides a list of technologies—including energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies—for achieving each wedge. See the U.N. Foundation report and the press releases from the National Commission on Energy Policy and WRI.