Energy demand, pollution to skyrocket

2011-10-19 20:27

Paris - Energy demand will skyrocket in the coming decades and much of it will be met with fossil fuels, increasing risks of pollution and global warming, a group of energy ministers warned on Wednesday.

An International Energy Agency meeting of the ministers and industry leaders in Paris was clear about the scale of the challenges: Global demand is expected to grow by a third by 2035, most of it in developing countries - where "dirty" fuels are most common.

That message was a reminder that while much of the focus of late has been on the economic slowdown, many parts of the world are still growing at a quick pace.

This week, for example, China reported 9.1% growth for the latest quarter - a slowdown for the behemoth but still many times the growth rates in the US or Europe.

Australian Energy Minister Martin Ferguson, who chaired the two-day meeting, said that even as more pollution comes from poorer countries, the burden for introducing new, cleaner technology rests with the developed world.

"Those less developed economies have the same aspirations and right in the demand for energy," he told reporters after the meeting. "It's not for us to deny it to them, but to invent clean energy technology at the lowest possible cost to ensure that they have the same opportunities."

If advances aren't made in clean technology, Ferguson, citing an upcoming IEA report, said carbon emissions could cause global temperatures to rise more than 3.5°C. That's significantly higher than the threshold of 2°C  beyond which serious damage from climate change is expected.

Go green

To prevent that damage, the ministers urged significant investment in clean technology, but offered few specifics.

In a statement that summarized the meeting, Ferguson said participants acknowledged that coal would "remain the backbone of electricity supply in many parts of the world." To head off its ill effects, they could only hope that the technology might eventually be developed to capture and store its pollution.

Ferguson also cautioned against talking about the end of nuclear power - once considered the great clean-energy hope - in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis.

"Nuclear is part of the future," he said, especially for developing countries like China. Countries that are ending their use of nuclear, like Germany, however have to find other clean energy, he said.

The IEA, created in the wake of the 1970s oil crisis, is made up of more than two dozen mainly European, oil-importing countries. It works to co-ordinate responses to supply disruptions and gather research and data on the energy sector.

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