From: Alister Doyle - Reuters
Published August 28, 2007 07:41 AM

Energy efficiency seen easy way to aid climate: U.N.

VIENNA (Reuters) - Energy efficiency for power plants, buildings and cars is the easiest way to slow global warming in an investment shift set to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

A U.N. report about climate investments, outlined to a meeting in Vienna of 1,000 delegates from 158 nations, also said emissions of greenhouse gases could be curbed more cheaply in developing nations than in rich states.

The cash needed to return rising emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, to current levels by 2030 would amount to 0.3 to 0.5 percent of projected gross domestic product (GDP), or 1.1 to 1.7 percent of global investment flows in 2030, it said.

"Energy efficiency is the most promising means to reduce greenhouse gases in the short term," said Yvo de Boer, the head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, presenting the report to the August 27-31 meeting.

The 216-page report was published online last week.


He said the study could help guide governments, meeting in Austria to try to work out a longer-term fight against global warming beyond the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol. The protocol binds 35 rich nations to cap emissions of greenhouse gases by 2008-12.

The report estimates that "global additional investment and financial flows of $200 billion-$210 billion will be necessary in 2030 to return greenhouse gas emissions to current levels," including measures for energy supply, forestry and transport.

Energy efficiency in power plants would help, along with measures such as greater fuel efficiency for cars or better insulation in buildings. The study foresees a shift to renewable energies such as solar and hydropower, and some nuclear power.


The report also estimates that investments in helping nations adapt to the impact of climate change would run to tens of billions of dollars in 2030, such as treating more cases of disease such as malaria or building dykes to protect beaches from rising seas.

It said carbon markets would have to be "significantly expanded to address needs for additional investments and financial flows." Companies are now responsible for about 60 percent of global investments.

Experts said the report was the first to try to give a snapshot of the needed investments in one year -- in this case 2030.

The report fills in some gaps in a wider picture given by previous reports such as one by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern saying it would be cheaper to confront climate change now than wait to combat the consequences.

U.N. reports this year have also projected that warming will bring more heat waves, droughts, disease, disrupt farming, and raise global sea levels.

De Boer said investments to developing nations should rise.

"The bulk of cost effective opportunities are in developing countries," he said, adding that did not mean that rich nations should seek only to make investments abroad rather than at home.

"More than half the energy investment needed is in developing countries," he said. China opens new coal-fired power plants at a rate of two per week to feed its growing economy. Investments in cleaner technology, such as filtering out carbon emissions and burying them, would help, he said.

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