WEC at COP: guiding energy and climate decisions

18th December 2013

News ArticleGlobalEventsInnovationPolicy

The WEC brought its studies and outcomes of the World Energy Congress to decision-makers in Warsaw, Poland last month during the UNFCCC’s 19th Conference of Parties (COP-19).

The WEC kicked off a week of activities with its official side event on 15 November, organised as part of the UNFCCC’s formal day for the Business and Industry NGOs (BINGO) group. The event took place for the first time inside the COP venue, as part of the main programme of events.

The panel discussion, moderated by Joan MacNaughton, Executive Chair of the WEC Trilemma study, covered policymakers’ and business perspectives on how to achieve a secure, equitable, and environmentally sustainable energy systems. (Read highlights on http://bit.ly/1bCUMAJ)

In her concluding remarks, Joan MacNaughton said that the sector is at risk of walking into the next “too big to fail” scenario if not enough is done now to curb emissions from fossil fuel plants, which would effectively become stranded assets (see interview, below).

Elsewhere in Warsaw, at the International Coal & Climate Summit, WEC Secretary General Christoph Frei urged the coal industry to redouble its efforts to ramp up the development of technologies to curb carbon emissions, adding that CCS will be crucial but is currently not commercially viable.

Dr. Frei made the remarks in the event’s plenary discussion where other panellists included organisations promoting the coal industry.

Christoph Frei also held talks with Christiana Figueres, who congratulated the WEC for organising the World Energy Congress and recognised the value of the WEC’s trilemma work in helping to guide energy and climate policies.

This meeting is one of many held between the WEC and senior leaders from various governments and organisations. In another meeting, Dr Frei discussed the WEC’s scenarios work with His Excellency Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s minister of petroleum and mineral resources (pictured below, left), accompanied by Dr Taha Mohammed Zatari, WEC Vice Chair for the Gulf States and Middle East (pictured below, middle).


Innovation and collaboration

COP-19 is seen as a stepping stone towards a global agreement for the COP in 2015 in Paris, when countries must agree on a deal to limit global temperature rise to 2°C.

Reaching this goal will be challenging. Referring to the World Energy Scenarios findings, Christoph Frei said “it’s going to be very difficult to solve the issue.”

The Scenarios study finds that current technologies, policies, and innovation are not enough to meet climate goals. Even in the best case, the world will see a near doubling of greenhouse gas emissions at 490–535 ppm CO2 equivalent by 2050, compared with 1990 levels. A goal of two degrees is equivalent to limiting atmospheric emissions to 450 ppm.

Speeding up progress will call for unprecedented innovation and coordination in leadership. Frei said: “We’ve made the point at the Congress, that without innovative policies, with greater focus on innovation and technologies, and without greater coordination in those areas, we’re not going in the right direction. It’s now time to ask: where can we deliver those innovations? Can we trigger collaboration?”

An example of collaboration is the Global Electricity Initiative, which brings utilities worldwide to see how they can share best practice in reducing emissions and widen electricity access. The GEI’s Executive Chair Philippe Joubert presented the initial finding of a GEI survey at COP. The survey finds that electricity utilities see long-term policies and credible carbon pricing as crucial for reducing emissions.

The week of the WEC’s activities at COP also saw Karl Rose, Senior Director of Scenarios and Studies, presenting the findings of the World Energy Scenarios study at the Caring for Climate Summit and the Sustainable Innovation Forum, organised by UNEP. At the latter event Joan MacNaughton gave a keynote speech on the WEC’s trilemma recommendations. Both MacNaughton and Frei also spoke at the World Climate Summit.

■ Watch  the WEC’s press conferences at COP:

World Energy TrilemmaWorld Energy ScenariosGlobal Electricity Initiative

■ Watch our interviews on Climate Change Studio:

Karl RoseJoan MacNaughtonPhilippe JoubertChristoph Frei

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