Ongoing increases in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mean the world's largest economies will have to work that much harder and pick up the pace of energy-sector GHG emissions reductions in order to avoid the risks and impacts of runaway climate change, according to an analysis of economic growth rates and GHG emissions for G20 economies produced by PwC.
Home to the world's largest economies, G20 countries will have to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector 6.2 percent for every dollar of GDP -- every year from now to 2100 -- in order to keep global warming within the 2 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) limit agreed to by nearly 200 nations as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change's (UNFCCC) Copenhagen Accord. That's more than five times the current pace, PwC analysts highlight in the sixth annual Low Carbon Economy Index, 2 degrees of separation – ambition & reality report.
“After a decade of carbon inertia, we are way behind, and now need to decarbonise at more than five times our current rate to avoid 2 degrees Celsius ... Making up for the inadequacy to date will be technologically harder, financially costlier, and climactically riskier in the future.” Leo Johnson, a partner in PwC's sustainability and climate change unit, stated.
Globally, annual energy-sector GHG emissions now total just over 30 billion metric tons (Gt), and that's rising with GDP growth of 3.1 percent. The reduction in the carbon intensity of the energy sector was just 1.2 percent. That means that the gap separating what needs to be achieved and what is actually being achieved in terms of energy-sector carbon emissions reductions is widening, PwC analysts highlight.
Analyzing the data across countries, PwC found “an unexpected champion” in terms of how quickly nations are decarbonizing their economies. Australia's decarbonization rate increased 7.2 percent year-over-year in 2014, the second consecutive year Australia has led the G20 in carbon emissions reductions.
The U.K., Italy and China ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, with decarbonization rates of between 4-5 percent. On the flip side of the coin, 2014 carbon intensity rates increased year-over-year in the U.S. as well as four other G20 countries: France, India, Germany and Brazil.
The current rate of carbon emissions has set the stage for an increase in global mean temperature of between 3.7 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (2.96 to 3.84 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, according to the IPCC. That raises the specter of “severe adverse impacts ... on people and ecosystems through water stress, food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts and species extinction on land and sea.”
“The E7 has woken up to the business logic of green growth, decarbonizing faster than the G7 for the first recorded time. And globally renewables are emerging fast. As they approach cost parity the stage is set for a policy framework that shifts subsidies away from fossil fuels and accelerates the renewables rollout.”
Stronger commitments on the part of world leaders to achiever greater reductions in energy-sector GHG emissions is crucial if global mean temperature rise is to be kept within bounds. PwC's latest Low Carbon Economy Index report arrived as world leaders prepare for the U.N. Climate Summit 2014 convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 23. There, the U.N. Secretary General and staff are aiming to hammer out an increase in member nations' GHG reduction pledges.
“What we’ve seen over the past twelve months is a subtle change in the carbon rhetoric. The costs of climate inaction – from flooding to energy costs to commodity pricing, to food insecurity – appear to be growing stronger,” Jonathan Grant, PwC sustainability and climate change director, stated.
Image credits: PwC
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.