A 7% increase in energy-related investment could save millions of lives and help ensure that global carbon dioxide emissions peak by 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concludes this week, in its first-ever report linking carbon reduction and public health objectives.
“Along with spending on pollution control equipment, the keys, it said, are energy efficiency and the use of renewables like wind and solar,” InsideClimate News reports. That strategy would reduce annual air pollution deaths from 6.5 million today to 3.3 million by 2040.
“Implementing the IEA strategy in the Clean Air Scenario can push energy-related pollution levels into a steep decline in all countries,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. ” It can also deliver universal access to modern energy, a rapid peak and decline in global greenhouse-gas emissions, and lower fossil fuel import bills in many countries.”
The report concludes that air pollution is worst “in developing countries in Asia where there is a high reliance on coal for power generation and in sub-Saharan Africa, where inefficient burning of biomass accounts for more than half of its air pollution,” ICN notes.
“The IEA assessment outlines a Clean Air Scenario where an additional US$4.8 trillion in pollution control technologies, renewable energy, and energy efficiency measures is invested worldwide between now and 2040,” writes correspondent Phil McKenna. “The investment would include making clean cooking facilities available to an additional 1.8 billion people worldwide.”
That scenario would see global particulate emissions fall almost 75% by 2040, while sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen would decline 50%. “The $4.8 trillion cost represents an additional 7% on top of energy spending plans already announced by the world’s nations, including the pledges to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that they made under the new Paris climate treaty,” McKenna notes.
He adds that the scenario’s 2020 peak in energy-related carbon emissions compares favourably with the results of last year’s United Nations climate summit in Paris, where countries’ voluntary commitments would allow emissions to rise at least until 2040.
In response to the report, WWF Global pointed to the IEA’s failure to focus in on coal-fired electricity generation. “While the IEA makes a case for how the energy sector can reduce pollution significantly by improving policies, targets, and monitoring, they miss the most important conclusion—that we need to phase out coal as soon as possible in the next 20 years, and move to a fully renewable energy-based energy system globally,” said Dr. Stephen Singer, director of global energy policy with the NGO’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative.
“Coal and oil cannot be made ‘clean,’” he added. “Even if conventional and deadly pollutants are reduced, they still emit CO2, the largest offender for a safe climate system.”