Energy policy

Is India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, a climate leader?

  • 25 Nov 2014, 14:00
  • Mat Hope

n May, Narendra Modi was sworn in as the new prime minister of India. Many hoped he would prove a  climate change champion. Six months later, those expectations have been tempered.

The next year is set to be crucial to the world's chances of agreeing a new global climate deal. The US and China recently signed  an historic deal to cut their country's emissions. But if the world is going to successfully manage the risks of climate change, it will need India to play its part too.

Given India's status as the world's third largest emitter, negotiators are eager for the country to play a productive role at climate talks. So do Modi's first six months give an indication of what stance India will take?

India's international climate policies

Modi was elected promising to revive India's economy. He sees the electrification of India as key to its economic development, and has made it a government priority to connect more than 300 million citizens to India's power grid.

As a consequence, India's electricity demand is likely to more than triple in the next thirty years, according to the International Energy Agency. That would mean India's energy-related emissions more than doubling by 2040, as this IEA projection shows:

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Source: Data from IEA World Energy Outlook 2014. Graph by Carbon Brief.

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UN report says energy efficiency integral to bridging emissions gap

  • 19 Nov 2014, 15:00
  • Mat Hope

There's a disjoint between the emissions cuts countries say they're going to make and what needs to be done to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to the latest annual update to the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP)  Emissions Gap report.

To close the gap and limit climate change, the world is going to have to get a lot better at using energy smartly, it says.

Each year UNEP takes a different aspect of the world's energy economy to examine, in order to show how emissions could be curtailed. This year, it's the turn of energy efficiency. So what's the calculus on how using energy more intelligently could get us closer to two degrees?

Emissions gap

The impetus for this report is simple. Unless global emissions peak and decline in short order, the world will pass a point where global warming can be limited to two degrees.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent report calculated the  remaining amount of carbon dioxide humans can emit and still have a likely chance of limiting global warming to less than two degrees. It comes to about another 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide.

In 2012, global emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane were around 54 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. To meet that "carbon budget", UNEP calculates global emissions must be no higher than 44 gigatonnes in 2020, and 42 gigatonnes in 2030.

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Tackling climate while maximising oil extraction: UK-Canada meeting glosses the paradox

  • 19 Nov 2014, 14:25
  • Simon Evans

Ministers from the UK and Canada came together for a roundtable meeting on energy security on Tuesday to discuss issues including exports from the Canadian oil sands, oil sector regulation and carbon capture and storage.

The Canada Europe Energy Summit was held in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's opulent Locarno Suite. It was sponsored by energy firms including the UK's Centrica, owner of British Gas, and was attended by chief executives and chairmen of oil and gas players from Europe and North America, as well as Carbon Brief.

Attendees were met by banner-waving activists protesting against Canadian oil sands production. This prompted some delegates to reflect fondly on the annual event's more exotic 2011 protest, when a pair of underwear-clad protesters stood on the table and smeared each other with oil.

Themes at the meeting included frustration at "disinformation" spread by environmental groups and a push from Canada for its oil sands to be seen as a stable "baseload" source of oil, able to feed growing demand in a world of growing political instability.

Tackling climate change while maximising oil extraction

The importance of tackling climate change was noted by the UK's energy minister Matt Hancock and Canadian deputy minister for natural resources Bob Hamilton. Both also emphasised their intention to maximise the exploitation of domestic fossil fuel resources.

While it is economically rational for individual countries like the UK or Canada to try to maximise the economic benefits of their natural resources, about 80 per cent of known global fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we want a good chance of limiting warming to two degrees, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Fossil fuels are needed today and they will still be needed for some years to come, but sooner or later we will have to stop extracting them. If everyone takes the UK-Canada approach and attempts to maximise exploitation of fossil reserves, then presumably all the climate targets in the world aren't going to prevent dangerous warming.

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