Fighting the Climate Crises

4th September 2019

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Fighting the Climate Crises – Competition Against Time

AUTHOR: Baldur Pétursson , Secretary, World Energy Council Member Committee, Iceland

It is almost 100 years since the World Energy Council was founded. The visionary who built the World Energy Council, created a platform for energy reconstruction and development after World War 1 and to debate best innovative solutions, practices and opportunities towards a sustainable global energy system. The vision turned out to be very successful.


There is no plan B for the climate crisis

Over the last 100 years, there have been financial crises, World War 2, and the oil crises. Could these crises have been avoided? Lessons from the recent financial crises, in 2008, include the danger of poor risk assessment, non-transparencies, lack of a long-term view or plan and lack of local and global cooperation and actions.

Major climate actions have been taken by the UN, individual countries, global associations, companies, institutions and others, but the results are still too weak. More effort and work are needed. The big question is: Are similar mistakes, like in the financial crises, now being repeated concerning the climate crises? The biggest difference between the financial crises and the climate crises, is the scale, risk and consequences.  In the financial crisis’s mistakes could be fixed later, or you could go to another bank. In the climate crises there is no option or plan B. Therefore, the only option is, to act as quickly as possible with enough volume and power as possible - on all levels.

12-year competition against time

Climate risk is rising as can be seen in recent UN Emission gap report, which states: Unless NDC ambitions are increased before 2030, exceeding the 1.5o C goal is unavoidable. Now more than ever, unprecedented and urgent action is required by all nations. The UN 2019 Climate Summit led by the Secretary General will provide a crucial opportunity to continue this dialogue.” On G7 meeting in last August he also stated – “we are now facing a dramatic climate emergency.” Supporting this statement are interactive maps and charts from the Our World in Data website depict countries’ shares of global CO2 emissions.

There is a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global climate crisis.  When the report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out in 2018, there was widespread media coverage that there were only 12 years to avert climate catastrophe. In addition, it was stated that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% instead of 40% by 2030. However, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year. 

The World Energy Council has an important role in fighting the climate crises

CO2 is a key contributor to the climate crises. A large portion is coming from the energy sector’s power and heat, that uses fossil fuels. The energy sector is one of the main economic pillars of our economy and can play a crucial role in fighting the climate crises, directly and indirectly.

At the same time, the energy sector has contributed greatly towards mitigating the climate crises through a number of important projects and programmes including renewables, innovation and decarbonisation. For example, Iceland’s CarbFix project,  as can be seen in the documentary film Ice on Fire, and the joint Icelandic/USA Carbon Recycling venture. In the seventies, Iceland transformed the house heating of Iceland from oil to geothermal within just 10 years, all based on awareness raising, cooperation, financial planning and quick implementation.

In a recent UN report, it was highlighted that the Secretary General will seek to challenge states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens to step up action in six key areas:  1. energy transition, 2. climate finance and carbon pricing, 3. industry transition, 4. nature-based solutions, 5. cities and local action, and 6. resilience.

The World Energy Council can play a significant and constructive role for all six of these areas. Therefore, it should be the highest priority within the Council to formulate urgent climate policy reaction in close cooperation with individual countries, UN and other international and financial bodies

However, the most important element, is the vision and the driving spirit of winning for the future, like the World Energy Council’s start more than 100 years ago.  We need a similar driving spirit to succeed in fighting the climate crises, as there is no plan or Planet B.

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