Global and Regional Energy Challenges to 2050 and Beyond - experiences from assessing energy pathways for Europe
Conference contribution, 2011
This paper provides a discussion on the global and regional energy challenges to 2050 and beyond. The discussion is partly based on conclusions drawn from the first five year of a project which studies pathways for the European energy system to the year 2050 with the aim to comply with a 2ºC temperature increase target. This paper puts special emphasis on the threat imposed by the global fossil fuel resources and compares the implications of the results from the project with the current public debate on how to cope with climate change.
It is concluded that the political debate on future solutions and challenges for the energy system is often focussed on which types of technologies and systems to choose from, when, considering the deep emission cuts required over the next decades, it seems rather clear that all available technologies and measures must be applied. The challenge is to get a clear policy measure in place, most notably a cost to emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The main challenge is that there is too much fossil fuels (especially coal) in a climate change context. Thus, the global community is not running out of fossil fuels but rather there are extensive reserves and resources, especially of coal. As a consequence, successful implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies seems to be a key factor if to meet climate targets. This, since this will facilitate fossil fuel dependent economies to agree on binding climate targets. Thus, successful application of CCS may moderate geopolitical risks related to regional differences in the possibilities and thereby willingness to comply with large emission cuts. Failure to implement CCS will require that the global community, including Europe, agrees to almost immediately to start phasing out the use of fossil fuels, an agreement which seems more unlikely than to reach international agreement on binding emission reduction targets.