What to Expect: COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech

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Nov 082016


By Brooke Cary, Desmog, find full article [here].

Today, world leaders and climate negotiators are reconvening in Marrakech, Morocco, less than a year after they hammered out the Paris Agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions through the United Nations process. Over the next two weeks, they will work out the logistics of their climate goals at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22).  (…)

Negotiators at COP22 will need to strike a delicate balance. You want to be transparent and you want to keep countries accountable for what they are suggesting,” Alexander Ochs, Senior Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch Institute, said. “On the other hand, it’s important to keep it voluntary.” (…)

The burning questions are: Who will pay how much — and where will the funding go first? It will have to be seen how the funds are acquired, who pays what, what obligations are there for countries to receive it. That’s the overarching issue,” Ochs said.

Reaching the Paris Agreement’s ambitious target of 1.5°C warming — or even staying below 2°C — will require nations to up their emissions reduction targets far beyond what they have already committed to. COP21 in Paris was one, if not the most important and definitely the most successful climate conference that we’ve had historically,” Ochs said. But, “we can’t just rest with past successes which exist on paper, but have not yet been implemented.” (…)


‘Yes we can’ switch to 100 percent renewable energy

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Mar 042016

DW.ImageEuropean Union environment ministers are discussing implementation of the Paris Agreement on Friday (04.03.) A timely transition out of fossil fuels is doable, says Alexander Ochs from Worldwatch. That is, if we act now.

Protest at Eiffel Tower at COP21 in Paris (Photo: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

Can we switch from fossil fuels to renewables in time to keep temperature rise to 2, ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius?

Not only can we do a transition to truly sustainable systems – financially, economically, socially and environmentally sustainable – we are in the midst of it. There is no one global trend in that direction, but there are many places, municipalities, provinces, whole countries, regions that are transitioning away from fossil fuels toward renewable ways of producing energy, and smarter ways of consuming energy. So it is absolutely doable.

Can you name some examples?

Alexander Ochs (Photo: Irene Quaile)Ochs says renewables are fast outpacing fossil fuels

Germany has managed over the last two decades to transition away from fossil fuels. We have seen enormous growth rates of renewable electricity production. Or take Denmark, which has always been seen as a renewable energy champion. But it’s not a trend restricted any more to developed countries.

Look at Costa Rica, look at many places on all continents – you find very dramatic examples, transitions away from fossil fuel energy toward sustainable energy sources – not always at the level of nations, but often sub-federal levels like communities or provinces. We have a lot of really great examples now, best practice examples. We really have to learn from experience and share that experience internationally.

Continue reading »

Presentation next week: Energizing successful economies: How renewables are outperforming fossil fuels

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Feb 122016


Dec 052015

Alexander Ochs, published as Worldwatch Institute blog

Many of us still remember the images from the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, which was launched as “Hopenhagen” with great expectations and concluded in the “Flopenhagen” fiasco: the disappointment of freezing environmentalists lining up in front of the Bella Convention Center; the desperate faces of exhausted negotiators; the Danish sherpas trying to argue small successes in the summit’s failure.

But America’s political superstars would not succeed if they didn’t manage to emerge as winners, even in moments of defeat. U.S. president Barack Obama somehow thwarted the image of Europeans marked by the poor results of months of negotiations. Obama flew in to Copenhagen by helicopter, cut through the icy Scandinavian winds toward the conference venue, and assembled those around him whom he decided were the chosen few.

It is this other image that we conjure up when remembering Copenhagen: the U.S. president, with his sleeves rolled up, surrounded by the representatives of Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. The message: “We saved what could be saved.” But to anyone familiar enough with the negotiations to look behind the façade, this image actually showed those who had sabotaged the ambitious plans of Europeans and their coalition of “more willing but less mighty.” The picture was deceptive: What was rescued was not the climate, the environment, or sustainable development, but a minimal consensus to continue talking. After that, the world became relatively silent on climate diplomacy. But the talking did continue, and it led to much more progress than could have been expected shortly after Copenhagen.

Continue reading »

Paris ist eine gewaltige Chance

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Dec 012015



Von Alexander Ochs

  • Am Ende des Klimagipfels von Paris könnte eine tatsächlich historische, die Welt verändernde Einigung stehen.

Manchem Beobachter sind heute noch die Bilder von Kopenhagen präsent, vom Klimagipfel 2009, der als “Hopenhagen” mit so großen Erwartungen gestartet war und im Fiasko von “Flopenhagen” endete: Die Enttäuschung der Umweltaktivisten, die Erklärungsversuche der dänischen Verhandlungsleitung, die leeren Gesichter der erschöpften Verhandler. Doch US-Präsident Barack Obama schaffte es, im Moment der Niederlage als Sieger dazustehen. Er vermittelte dieses andere Bild von Kopenhagen, auf dem die Europäer nicht auftauchen: Obama, mit hochgekrempelten Ärmeln. Die Message: Hier wurde gerettet, was zu retten war. Gerettet wurde nicht das Klima, sondern lediglich ein Minimalkonsens. Danach wurde es für Jahre wieder deutlich stiller um die Klimadiplomatie.

Bis jetzt. Der Klimagipfel in Paris ist keiner der Zwischenjahre, in denen nur vorbereitet und debattiert wird – er ist wieder einer der Wichtigen, “a big one”, so wie Rio 1992, Kyoto 1997 und Kopenhagen 2009. Aber diesmal deutet vieles darauf hin, dass am Ende tatsächlich ein Sieg für alle stehen könnte; dass sich die Regierungen aller Staaten auf weitreichende Maßnahmen zum Klimaschutz werden einigen können. Am Ende des Klimagipfels von Paris, am 12. oder 13. Dezember 2015, könnte eine tatsächlich historische, die Welt verändernde Einigung stehen; eine Einigung darüber, wie Staaten wirtschaften, wie sie Energie produzieren und nutzen, wie sie mit ihren Wäldern umgehen, wie sie sich für Umweltveränderungen wappnen; und noch weitergehend, wie sie bei alledem miteinander umgehen. Continue reading »


Nov 302015

COP21.logoWorldwatch will contribute to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) starting in Paris, France today by advising governmental delegations, participating in high-level consultations, and speaking at conferences for the general public. We invite you to follow these events as they unfold, either with us in Paris or through our blog and Twitter account.

“The Paris climate summit has all the ingredients to make history: an almost universal understanding of the urgency to act, an agreement on the final document within reach, and governments worldwide determined to act,” says Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy and Worldwatch’s head of delegation.

“A quarter century after the world embarked on protecting the atmosphere, we are closer than ever to making real change happen. Paris can alter the way we generate and consume energy; manufacture goods; produce our food and treat our forests and peatlands; run our transport systems; respond to the ecosystem changes already underway; and, maybe most importantly, work together across borders when confronted with problems of global scale,” says Ochs. “Let’s seize this opportunity!”

Worldwatch will be among the international civil society organizations at the COP21 that will lead in debates and discussions about solutions to climate change. Check out our event lineup below and keep an eye on this critical moment.

Continue reading »

What to expect after the Paris climate talks: A quick survey

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Nov 272015


Claudia Delpero
Road To Paris – Science for Smart Policy


From 30 November to 11 December, representatives of over 190 countries gather in Paris to reach a global agreement on how to deal with climate change after the expiry of Kyoto Protocol. The talks take place in a city that has been shaken by the Nov 13 terrorist attacks, under a state of emergency, and high security detail for a COP. (…)

We asked experts from a variety of sectors what they expected to see after COP21. We’ll continue to update this from the conference in the next two weeks. (…)

Alexander Ochs, Director Climate and Energy Program, Worldwatch Institute. Washington – Berlin:

“We will continue helping individual countries and municipalities transform their energy systems, including in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Why the focus on developing countries? Because this is where the development needs are the strongest and the pressure not to embark on a development path dependent on fossil fuels is the greatest. In Haiti, for example, 10% of Gross Domestic Product is squandered on fossil fuels while two thirds of the populations still do not have reliable energy access. In at least four out of five countries worldwide there is now a clear economic argument to move from conventional fuels to renewables and to boost efficiency. There are challenges also in North America and Europe, but the most suffering from today’s unjust, unaffordable, and unsustainable energy system is in the regions less developed.”

Full text [here]

Against the Odds, Caribbean Doubles Down for 1.5 Degree Deal in Paris

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Nov 242015

By Zadie Neufville

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Nov 23 2015 (IPS) – Negotiators from the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are intent on striking a deal to keep the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels, but many fear that a 10-year-old agreement to buy cheap petroleum from Venezuela puts their discussions in jeopardy. (…)

While agreeing that PetroCaribe could be a disincentive for investments in domestic renewable energy, Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at WorldWatch Institute noted, “Caribbean governments are increasingly aware of the enormous financial, environmental and social costs associated with continued dependence on fossil fuels.” (…)

“Even if the problem of global warming did not exist, and the burning of fossil fuels did not result in extensive local air and water pollution, CARICOM would still have to mandate to transition away from these fuels as swiftly as possible for reasons of social opportunity, economic competitiveness and national security, ”said Ochs, one of the authors of the new Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment, launched on October 28. (…)

Continue reading »

A Tragedy with a Happy Ending? The United States before the Climate Summit in Paris

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Nov 132015

Obama beim Uno-Klimagipfel: Und nun zum Wetter

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Sep 242014


Von , New York

Luftangriffe auf den “Islamischen Staat”, Ebola-Epidemie, Ukraine-Krise: Beim Uno-Klimagipfel fällt es den Staats- und Regierungschefs schwer, sich auf das eigentliche Thema zu konzentrieren. US-Präsident Obama versucht es trotzdem. (…)

Bleibt abzuwarten, was aus New York 2014 folgt. “Die größte Massendemo für mehr Klimaschutz in der Geschichte und die vielen Zusagen von Politik und Industrie bringen nur etwas, wenn ihnen jetzt auch schnell konkrete Taten folgen”, sagt Alexander Ochs, Direktor für Klima und Energie beim Washingtoner Worldwatch Institute.

Ganzer Artikel [hier].

Sep 232014

Here is my presentation on the Economic, Social & Environmental Successes of the German Energy Transition which I gave at the Private Sector Prep Meeting for COP 20 in Lima last week. RethinkingTheEnergySystem_Ochs_Lima_140915_final         overview

  1. the trends| Germany’s energy transition
  2. the enablers | Vision, policies, governance
  3. the impacts | Busted myths, changed paradigms
  4. the lessons | Key take-aways

Negotiating climate change as if development really mattered

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Nov 182013

Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch Institute

Published in Outreach, 18 November 2013

Over the past twenty years, climate negotiations have been dominated by concerns that addressing global warming is anti-business and onerous to future development.  The insufficient progress we have made at the last 18 COPs towards ‘preventing dangerous human interference with the climate system,’ the ultimate goal of the UN Climate Convention, is a consequence of this – and the summit currently underway in Warsaw is not exactly on course to make a change. Working in many places around the world, from Haiti to India to Europe and the United States, I have witnessed little success in convincing people of the importance of sacrifice for the global commons.  This approach has proven ineffective.

I wrote in this publication a couple of years ago that ‘new energy for the negotiations’ was needed. The article’s title, of course, was a play on words: More than anything else we need to quickly transition to new energy systems built on efficient consumption and renewable resources, as well as decentralised and smart transmission solutions, in order to decarbonise our societies and help them to adapt to climate change. But we also need new, renewable and sustainable energy for the negotiations.  Discussing climate mitigation as what can be won, rather than what must be given up, and a strategy that at its core builds on the experiences that already have been made in many places around the world on the way to building low-emissions economies might not just inspire scale-up and replication of on-the-ground action but also revitalise international partnership and ambition. Continue reading »

Sustainable Energy Roadmaps – Presentation at COP 18 in Doha, Qatar

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Jan 132013

Sustainable Energy for Island Economies:
A High Impact Opportunity of SE4ALL – Vision 20/30

This session, moderated by Nasir Khattak, Climate Institute, presented the global programme “Sustainable Energy for Island Economies,” launched in 2000 and included in 2012 as one of the “high impact opportunities” under the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, with some panelists showcasing projects from their island states. Continue reading »

Amid Gloomy Climate News, Doha Talks Enter Final Week

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Dec 042012
Rosanne Skirble

December 04, 2012

High level officials from more than 200 countries are in Doha, Qatar, for talks that began last week on the next steps after the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. climate change treaty expires this year. The ministers arrive in the face of bad news for the planet. A spate of new scientific studies finds worldwide greenhouse gas emissions rising and ice sheets melting rapidly, and predicts a planetary warming of as much as five degrees Celsius by the end of this century unless nations act immediately to reduce their industrial emissions of CO2 and other climate-changing greenhouse gases.  (…)
While hopes are high that the U.S. will take the lead in Doha with new emission pledges, some experts doubt if the Obama Administration has the political support at home to significantly alter its climate policies.  Alexander Ochs, an energy and climate analyst with the World Watch Institute in Doha says the U.S. has its hands bound.
“On the one hand, having this high expectation here of other countries that the United States should be  in a leadership role and on the other hand not being able to move more ambitiously to fulfill those targets and those commitments because of domestic resistance.”
Find the full article [here] and on VOA Online.
You can find the full radio report [here].

More Energy for the Negotiations

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Nov 282012

Published in Outreach | COP-18, Doha |  28 November 2012 

Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy, Worldwatch Institute

More than half of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels for energy supply. Even excluding traditional biomass, fossil fuel combustion accounts for 90 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Against this background, it is surprising how limited a role energy is playing in the ongoing climate negotiations. And yet this discussion could be instrumental in refocusing the debate about what is necessary and what is possible in both the areas of climate mitigation and adaptation—bringing it back down from the current inscrutable spheres of negotiation tracks, subsidiary bodies, parallel sessions, ad-hoc working groups, and special meetings (which, let’s be frank, nobody outside the negotiators understands anymore).

First, a focus on energy shows how far we are from solving the climate crisis. Energy-related CO2 emissions grew 3.2 percent in 2011 to more than 31 gigatons—despite the economic crisis. We know that if we don’t want to lose track of the 2-degree Celsius threshold of maximum warming that would hopefully avoid major disasters, energy emissions must decline by at least one third to 20 gigatons in 2035, despite expectations that energy demand might double in the same time frame. .

So the challenge is enormous. But—and this is where the good news starts—clean energy solutions are at hand, ready to be implemented. The costs for wind, solar, sustainable hydro, biomass and waste energy technologies all continue to fall rapidly, and, in many markets, they are becoming price competitive with fossil fuels—even if externalities and fossil fuel subsidies are not internalized. If they are, the cost that our societies pay for our continued reliance on fossil fuels becomes truly outrageous: Coal, responsible for 71 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, causes more than US$100 billion in local pollution and health care costs annually in the United States alone, in addition to the personal hardships of those suffering from these impacts. Add the costs for climate change, and it becomes incomprehensible why our societies continue down the fossil path despite the availability of alternatives.

Continue reading »

Big failures, small successes mark Obama’s environmental record

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Nov 032011

Deutsche Welle, 3 November 2011 [original source]

As presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a bold green agenda. He vowed to reverse the climate change policy of his predecessor and push for green jobs. But one year before the election the results are mixed at best.

Barack Obama in Copenhagen (…)

Alexander Ochs, director of the climate and energy program at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, isn’t all that surprised about Obama’s reactions to the Fukushima and Deepwater Horizon accidents. He notes that Obama upon becoming president considered nuclear energy a clean technology and it doesn’t seem Fukushima changed his stance.

What’s more, says Ochs, energy security for most key players in the US simply trumps environmental protection. By continuing or even expanding domestic drilling for oil, those players hope to decrease US dependency on imported oil, which in the long run is impossible because of decreasing reserves.

And yet, despite many shortcomings, it wouldn’t be fair to label Obama as an abject failure on the environment. While it wasn’t hard to beat the environmental record set by his predecessor, Obama does deserve credit for some important green initiatives, argue the experts.

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama administration has made available investments in renewable energy projects totaling $90 billion (65 billion euros), explains Ochs. He adds that the so-called Cafe standard, i.e. the fuel standard for cars and light trucks, has been raised substantially. And the way in which federal agencies analyze environmental impact of green house gas emissions has also been improved.

While these efforts sound mundane compared to a sweeping international climate mandate they are important and do produce clear environmental change, says Ochs.


“Environmental protection could indeed play a role in the election to the extent that it can be cast by Republicans as a job killer,” says Ochs. “If Republicans are successful in framing it this way it can become quite a liability for Obama and Congress Democrats.”

Author: Michael Knigge, Editor: Rob Mudge

Länderperspektive: Die Vereinigten Staaten

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Nov 012011

von Alexander Ochs

aus: Nina  Netzer und Judith Gouverneur (Hrsg.), Zwischen Anspruch und Wirklichkeit – Internationale Perspektiven vor der Weltklimakonferenz in Durban, FES Perspektive, November 2011

1. Zusammenfassung

Viele Beobachter halten eine führende Rolle der USA für notwendig, um dem Klimawandel wirkungsvoll Einhalt gebieten zu können. Schließlich sind die Vereinigten Staaten der weltweit zweitgrößte Emittent von Treibhausgasen (THG), erst kürzlich überholt von China, das mehr als viermal so viele Einwohner hat. Außerdem könnte das Land eine wichtige Rolle als politischer Antreiber und technologischer Pionier spielen. In ihren eigenen Ambitionen im Klimaschutz orientieren sich viele Länder an den USA, oder benutzen die amerikanische Passivität als Vorwand für die eigene Untätigkeit. Zügige und massive globale Emissionsminderungen setzen demnach erhebliche Minderungen seitens der Vereinigten Staaten voraus. Doch die Vereinigten Staaten werden dieser Verantwortung bisher nicht gerecht. Sie galten zu beinahe allen Zeiten und unter allen Regierungen des Landes in den letzten 20 Jahren, seit der Klimawandel zum ersten Mal auf der internationalen politischen Agenda auftauchte, als Bremser internationaler Anstrengungen.

Nachdem es dem US-Kongress Mitte des Jahres 2010 abermals nicht gelungen war, ein umfassendes Klima- und Energiegesetz zu verabschieden,3 waren die Erwartungen an die 16. Konferenz der Vertragsparteien (Conference of the Parties, COP) des Rahmenübereinkommens der Vereinten Nationen über Klimaänderungen (United Nations Framework Convention on Climat Change, UNFCCC) im Dezember des vergangenen Jahres in Cancún eher gering. Dennoch wurden trotz einiger wichtiger Streitfragen, die in den Verhandlungen weitgehend außen vor blieben, Fortschritte erzielt. COP 16 endete mit der Annahme eines Pakets von Beschlüssen mit dem einen Ziel, Anpassungs- und Minderungsmaßnahmen sowohl in den entwickelten Ländern als auch den Entwicklungsländern zu unterstützen.4 Was darf man in Anbetracht der jüngsten Entwicklungen von den Vereinigten Staaten bei der im November/Dezember 2011 anstehenden COP 17 erwarten?

[zum Volltext]

“bridges” Lecture Series 2010: Debate on Global Climate-Change Policy with Roger Pielke, Jr., David Goldston, and Alexander Ochs

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Dec 212010

bridges vol. 28, December 2010 / Noteworthy Information

The challenge of addressing climate change inspires fierce, divisive debates, pitting science against politics, environmentalism against commerce, and the most powerful nations in the world against their less-developed neighbors. Roger Pielke, Jr. , professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado , bridges columnist, and a renowned expert on science and public policy, attempts to take on this challenge. In his new book, The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming , he seeks to propose a novel, alternative way of looking for solutions for the climatic changes the earth is experiencing.


The Office of Science and Technology at the Embassy of Austria chose the occasion of the publication of this book to invite Roger Pielke, Jr., and two more experts on the issue – David Goldston and Alexander Ochs – for a debate with the audience on global climate-change policy. David Goldston is the director of Government Affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council and previously served as chief of staff for the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Science and Technology. Alexander Ochs works for Worldwatch Institute, directing its Climate and Energy Program. 

[Read the rest of the event report on the bridges website]

La producción de alimentos y la contaminación

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Dec 092010

El Nuevo HeraldLa mayoría culpa a los automóviles y las fábricas por el cambio climático y los efectos devastadores que están teniendo en los patrones del clima global. Y esta semana en la Conferencia sobre el Cambio Climático de las Naciones Unidas en Cancún, también conocida como la UNFCCC COP16, los gobiernos internacionales y las delegaciones pasarán mucho tiempo en negociaciones, y discutiendo sobre culpas y soluciones.

Pero es probable que lo que está en nuestros platos es igual de perjudicial para el clima. La producción de alimentos en el mundo genera entre 13 y 30 por ciento de la emisión de gases de efecto invernadero que están causando el calentamiento global. Del campo, a la mesa, y al cesto de la basura, los alimentos que producimos, comemos y desechamos pueden tener un gran impacto sobre el medio ambiente, tanto como los vehículos que conducimos y los derrames de petróleo que producimos, y es crucial que lo que esté en nuestro plato también deba estar en la agenda de la UNFCCC.

Mediante la exploración de formas alternativas de producir, preparar y desechar los alimentos, podemos ayudar tanto a los agricultores de todo el mundo a poner fin al hambre y revertir el cambio climático. Encerrado en el suelo y en los árboles y plantas hay tres veces más carbono del que puede aguantar la atmósfera de la Tierra. Muchas prácticas agrícolas de hoy reducen la capacidad del suelo para encerrar el carbono, lo que libera una mayor cantidad de este gas de efecto invernadero a la atmósfera. Pero hay métodos agrícolas alternativos que mantienen el carbono enterrado, como restaurar los procesos naturales que garantizan que los niveles atmosféricos de carbono sean bajos.

En el Sahel, la extrema sequía en los últimos 40 años ha disminuido la producción de alimentos y desplazado a gran parte de la población. Pero los pequeños agricultores están cambiando la situación, mejorando sus medios de vida y su dieta y contribuyendo a mitigar el cambio climático mediante el cultivo de árboles autoctónos.

[Read the rest of Danielle Nierenberg’s and my op-ed in E Nuevo Herald here]

Mapping the future: Why bidding farewell to fossil fuels is in our interest – and how it can be done

 academic article/report  Comments Off on Mapping the future: Why bidding farewell to fossil fuels is in our interest – and how it can be done
Dec 082010

Developing efficient, sustainable energy systems based on renewable energy and smart grid technology is not only an environmental necessity: it is a social and economic imperative. We rely on fossil fuels for more than 85 per cent of all energy we use and pay a high price for our dependency, on all fronts. An overhaul of the way we produce, transport, store, and consume energy is underway and an improved energy world is emerging, slowly. Intelligent policies based on concise roadmaps will get us there faster.

cover_ClimateAction_2010People around the world are already suffering from the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, storms, droughts, and floods – these natural processes, artificially intensified by global warming, will affect agriculture, fishing, transportation, and tourism to an ever greater degree. Changing ecosystems and landscapes, biodiversity losses, the surge of tropical diseases, and food and water shortages will lead to economic and welfare losses on an unprecedented scale should climate change remain largely unabated as it is today.

The cost of fossil fuels is unjustifiable

Even if we take climate change, which has been called this century’s greatest challenge, off the table for a moment, transitioning our energy systems is a socioeconomic imperative. For a host of reasons, our reliance on fossil fuels comes at an unjustifiably high cost to our economies. First, the burning of coal and petroleum pollutes our air and water. China, for example, estimates that addressing its pollution and pollution-related health problems swallows up to 10 per cent of its total annual GDP. Imagine if the country could put these huge resources into addressing pressing social needs!

[Please find the full article here. It has been published in UNEP’s Climate Action 2010 book; please find the whole book here.]