Global Energy Solutions

Francis McGowan, David Ockwell, Gordon MacKerron, Jim Watson, Markku Lehtonen and Ivan Scrase

Rapidly cutting domestic GHG emissions is the most pressing energy policy challenge in industrialised countries, but it is global emissions, including those from developing countries, that will determine the extent of future climate change. Agreement on global action to cut emissions has so far been difficult to achieve, largely because of US intransigence at Federal level, but also because developing country governments are not willing to see their growth constrained so as to solve a problem caused by the rich world. Rich countries must therefore first demonstrate that high incomes, low emissions and energy security are simultaneously achievable goals. Successful technical and social innovations could then be selected and adapted to local circumstances in the developing world. Significant opportunities can also be expected for emerging economies to export low carbon technologies in to OECD markets.

To limit future climate change it would, of course, be most beneficial if emerging economies embarked immediately on low carbon development paths. However coal, oil and gas consumption are expected to rise steeply in the developing world in coming decades. Innovation and initiatives to cut emissions on the part of developing countries are significant, but technical capacity remains overwhelmingly concentrated in OECD countries. In this context, what should wealthy countries do in the short to medium term on the international stage, and how strong are the grounds for technological optimism?

Two broad kinds of responses are critically examined here. The first focuses on big global 'technical fixes' (Section 12.1). How far can we rely on nuclear power, biomass and CCS to solve the problem of rising global emissions? The second (Section 12.2) considers the political, legal and economic constraints on technology transfer between developed and developing countries. Section 12.3 then draws out some conclusions for industrialised countries.

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