Delaying Climate-Fight Deal 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, according to the International Energy Agency.

“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.

“One wonders how many more worrying figures the world needs,” Connie Hedegaard, EU climate-action commissioner, said today in an e-mailed statement. The IEA report “shows that the world is heading for a fossil-fuels lock-in” and demonstrates nations need to urgently implement carbon-price programs, cut fossil-fuel subsidies, install more renewables, boost energy efficiency and levy taxes in smarter ways, she said.

“Delaying action until 2015 would call for early retirement or retrofitting of plants emitting 5.7 billion metric 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 may have useful lives of more than 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.

‘Probably Not Practicable’

Should nations delay international co-ordinated action on climate change until 2017, the world would have “little room to maneuver” because its energy and other infrastructure will emit all the carbon available under the 2-degrees scenario, according to the report.

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.