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No magic bullet for carbon pollution, says IEA chief
NAIROBI, Nov 14 (AFP) Nov 14, 2006
The world's economies have no alternative to boosting energy efficiency and lowering carbon emissions to tackle global warming, as clean energy lies decades away as a mainstream source, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said here on Tuesday.

Claude Mandil, executive director of the Paris-based agency, issued what he called "a message of urgency" on the eve of a three-day meeting in Nairobi of the world's environment ministers, tasked with charting the next steps in the fight against climate change.

"With current policies, our energy future is insecure and environmentally unsustainable," Mandil told a press conference.

"We can't wait for a decade to make sure technology will solve the problem," he warned. "We are not on a sustainable track."

Mandil noted that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, had risen by 1.2 billion tonnes between 2003 and 2004, with coal accounting for 60 percent of the higher-than-expected increase.

The rise is mainly due to fast-growing developing countries like China, which are burning more and more coal to feed their voracious economies.

Fossil fuels have such a grip on the world's energy market that cleaner, renwable technologies such as wind, solar and tidal power will remain minority sources of power for decades to come, added Mandil.

According to the IAE's forecast for 2030, oil will remain the No. 1 energy source, followed by coal and then gas. These fossil fuels will still account for 85 percent of needs.

That scenario is unsustainable in terms of environmental damage as well as in geopolitical risk, as more user countries will be chasing oil sourced from fewer producers, said Mandil.

Mandil suggested countries take urgent steps to provide consumers with information about energy consumption by buildings, appliances and cars and scrap fiscal incentives and subsidies that encourage wasteful energy use, such as as tax breaks for car use.

In electric lighting alone, which uses 19 percent of global electricity production, energy needs could be slashed by 38 percent in the least-cost technologies were adopted but at no loss of service to consumers.

Estimated from 2008 to 2030, 16 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions would be stopped this way.

Mandil also argued in favour of innovation. The energy market had to price in the security risk of fossil fuels, and there should be major investment in testing carbon storage for safety and effectiveness, he said.

Carbon storage entails drawing off CO2 from fossil-fuel power stations. Instead of letting the CO2 escape into the atmosphere, it would be pumped into chambers deep underground.

Several pilot experiments are unfolding to see whether the technique is feasible. Critics worry that a rupture by an earthquake could cause the stored gas to belch into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse-gas problem.

The November 6-17 conference in Nairobi is taking place under the aegis of the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parent treaty of the Kyoto Protocol.

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