Delaying Climate-Protection Fight Is a ‘False Economy,’ IEA Says

Delaying an international deal to protect the climate is a “false economy” because costs to deal with increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will surge, the International Energy Agency estimated.

“For every $1 of investment avoided before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions,” the Paris-based IEA said today in its World Energy Outlook report.

Almost 200 nations are meeting later this month in Durban, South Africa, to extend or replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which includes emission-reduction targets for most rich nations for the five years through 2012. On Sept. 19, Australia and Norway proposed a plan that would result in a new legally binding global climate-protection agreement by 2015.

“Delaying action until 2015 would call for early retirement or retrofitting of plants emitting 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2035, around 45 percent of the global installed fossil-fuel capacity,” the agency said in its report.

Because power stations, buildings and factories can have useful lives of over 25 years, 80 percent of emissions in the period from 2011 through 2035 would already be “locked in,” assuming the world decides to keep temperature rises to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), the IEA said. That “leaves little room for maneuver.”

Should nations delay international co-ordinated action on climate change until 2017, then the world would have no room to maneuver because its energy and other infrastructure will emit all the emissions available under the 2-degrees scenario, according to the report.

‘Probably Not Practicable’

Under this scenario, every investment starting 2017 would then need to produce no emissions at all, which “would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but probably not practicable in political terms,” the IEA said.

Negotiators failed at last year’s climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, to reach a binding deal to cut greenhouse gases when the Kyoto Protocol targets expire.

The Cancun plan approved on Dec. 11 will create a climate fund to channel as much as $100 billion a year in aid by 2020 to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change, protect forests and outline methods to verify cuts in fossil fuel emissions. Debate on the future of Kyoto was put off until this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mathew Carr in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at

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