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The International Energy Agency Issues an Urgent Warning

“The world is not on track to meet the target agreed by governments to limit the long-term rise in the average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (°C).” This is the opening sentence of the Executive Summary of the Special Report Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, which the International Energy Agency (IEA) has launched this week.

The Special Report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, stresses the need for change in the energy sector.

The world is not on track to meet the target agreed by governments to limit the long-term rise in the average global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (°C).” This is the opening sentence of the Executive Summary of the Special Report Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, which the International Energy Agency (IEA) has launched this week. Despite the global-scale collective commitment made by governments, there are no plans for any international agreement to be signed before 2015. Taking into account the fact that new legal obligations resulting from these agreements will not be in force until 2020, we are presently in the situation that has prompted the IEA to issue a warning to all the countries in the world by means of the contents of this report.


[youtube height=»360″ width=»640″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTvlSN8pZ7o&feature=player_embedded#![/youtube]

The IEA’s Executive Director, Maria van der Hoeven, presents the Report.


The energy sector is the main source of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and the 134-page report is therefore essentially addressed to this sector.

Of the four points dealt with in the text, Inmesol has selected three for the present discussion. (The fourth point indicates additional measures that would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.) The three points are summarised below: [1]


1.       An account of the present state of affairs, the climate situation and world energy policy

  • Global greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly increasing. In May 2013, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in several hundred millennia.
  •  Most experts warn that extreme weather events (for example heat waves, floods et cetera) are expected to become increasingly frequent and intense.
  •  Global temperatures and sea levels are also expected to rise.




  • Although global action is not yet sufficient to limit the global temperature rise to 2º C, the goal remains technically feasible. However, it is also extremely challenging.
  • In order to keep open a realistic chance of meeting the 2o C target, intensive action is necessary before 2020.
  •  The energy sector accounts for approximately two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions since more than 80% of global energy is based on fossil fuels.
  •  In 2012, despite positive developments in some countries, global energy-related emissions rose by 1.4% to reach 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt), which is an all-time high.
  •  Non-OECD countries presently account for 60% of global emissions, up from 45% in 2000.
  •  In 2012, China was the country that presented the highest figure in the total of global CO2 emissions, but its growth was also one of the lowest in the last decade, mainly because of increased use of renewable energy and a significant improvement in the energy intensity of its economy.
  •  In the United States, a switch from coal to gas in power production helped to cut emissions by 200 million tonnes (Mt), thereby reducing them to the level of the mid-1990s. However, the encouraging trends in China and the United States could easily be reversed.
  •  In Europe, despite an increase in coal use, emissions declined by 50 Mt as a result of economic contraction, growing use of renewable energy and the imposition of maximum limits for emissions from the industry and power sectors.
  •  In Japan, emissions increased by 70 Mt as efforts to improve energy efficiency did not fully offset the use of fossil fuels to compensate for the reduction in its use of nuclear power.
  •  Even assuming that the policies now being pursued will be implemented, global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be nearly 4 Gt CO2equivalent (CO2-eq) higher than a level consistent with attaining the 2o C target. This underscores the magnitude of the challenge that is still to be tackled in this decade alone.


2.      Presentation of four very specific measures that could meanwhile be applied by the energy sector, with no net economic cost, in order to keep the door open to the 2 °C target through to 2020 


The four energy policies proposed by the IEA would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.1 Gt CO2-eq in 2020, which is to say 80% of the emissions reductions required to attain the goal of 2o C. This would then save precious time while international climate negotiations continue towards the Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris (2015) and until the national policies necessary to implement an expected international agreement are put in place.

The four measures, which are based on existing technologies, have been adopted and proven effective in several countries and, taken together, their widespread adoption would not harm economic growth in any country or region:




  1. Adopting specific energy efficiency measures (49% of the emissions savings).
  2. Limiting the construction and use of the least efficient coal-fired plants (21%).
  3. Minimising methane (CH4) emissions from upstream oil and natural gas production (18%).
  4. Accelerating the (partial) phase-out of subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption (12%).


  • The measures for favouring energy efficiency include the application of energy performance standards in buildings (for lighting, new appliances, and new heating and cooling equipment), in industry (for motor systems), and in transport (for road vehicles). The countries where these energy policies already exist should strengthen and extend them. Other countries must introduce them.
  • These targeted energy measures could reduce global energy-related emissions by 1.5 Gt in 2020, a level close to that of Russia at present.
  • The additional investment required on the global scale would reach $200 billion by 2020 but this would be more than offset by the reduction of spending on fuel bills.
  • Ensuring that new subcritical coal-fired plants are no longer built and limiting the use of the least efficient ones would reduce emissions by 630 Mt in 2020 and also help efforts to curb local air pollution.
  • Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies amounted to $523 billion in 2011, which is about six times more than the global financial support given to renewable energy.
  • Accelerated action towards a partial phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies would reduce CO2 emissions by 360 Mt in 2020 and enable the implementation of energy efficiency policies.


3.       Evidence of the fact that the energy sector must take action against climate change in its own interests

Extreme weather events pose risks to power plants and grids, oil and gas installations, wind farms and other infrastructure. There are also more gradual impacts which affect the energy sector, for example sea level rise on coastal infrastructure, water scarcity on power plants and changes to heating and cooling demand.

Delaying stronger climate action to 2020 would come at a cost. US$ 1.5 trillion in low-carbon investments would be avoided before 2020 but $5 trillion in additional investments would be required thereafter to get back on track.


IEA Member Countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. The European Commission also participates in the work of the IEA.


Complete Report (in English):





[1] As a summary of the International Energy Agency’s publication, this article closely and sometimes literally follows the original text in order to offer the most accurate possible account of its message.