Europe’s enormous potential to de-carbonise, and its lacklustre efforts to date

Two new reports highlight Europe’s enormous potential to de-carbonise by 2050, and its lacklustre efforts to date. While efficiency savings could cut world energy use by 70 percent, only about a third of the action needed to put European Union countries on a path towards a low carbon economy is currently underway.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), if Europe continues to delay the pace of its de-carbonisation agenda, it will miss the most cost-effective opportunity in a generation to clean up its infrastructure.

Reducing Energy Demand – a Low-Carbon Strategy for Europe

The IEA estimates that every year of delay in climate action will add an extra €336bn to the clean investment needed in the energy sector globally between 2010 and 2030. It is against this back-drop, and the other IEA estimates of a 36% rise in energy demand between 2008 and 2035, that the two new studies should be considered.

Screenshot: pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es102641n

Researchers at the University of Cambridge show that 73% of global energy use could be saved by introducing “best practice” efficiency changes – such as increased insulation, reduced drag, heat recapture – in buildings, transport and industry. Whereas new generation techniques take years to come on stream, such efficiency improvements can be implemented today, with existing technologies and know-how.

Given that discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions usually concentrate on cleaner ways of generating energy, it’s a powerful justification for bolstering energy efficiency and savings.

Screenshot: climatepolicytracker.eu

A new tracking tool launched by the World Wildlife Fund and renewable energy consultancy Ecofys however reveals large differences in levels of ambition and best practices across EU countries when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. Using state-by-state and sector-by-sector analysis, only about a third of the necessary savings are likely at present rates of transformation.

While demand reduction is often mentioned alongside supply security, it is rarely a priority for implementation, whether through policy or through the search for innovation. Many people are unaware of the scale of opportunities for reducing energy demand. By showing how global energy demand can fall to a quarter of its current level without any decline in services, we desperately need to redress the balance.

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About Paul Parrish

Paul was the Policy and Advocacy Officer of the Sustainable Energy Security programme between November 2010 and November 2012.

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