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Global Action Needed by 2017 to Prevent Dangerous Temperatures, IEA Says

The world needs to take internationally co-ordinated action by 2017 to keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels, the International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook 2011.

In the outlook paper, released yesterday, the IEA said that to keep the global temperature rise under 2 degrees C, all permissible emissions will have to come from infrastructure already built and “locked in” by 2017. That means that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 will need to be zero-carbon, or else existing emitters will need to be retired before the normal end of their lifetimes – a very expensive proposition.

About 80 percent of this projected “locked in” infrastructure already exists today, Reuters reported.

To keep the rise to 2 degrees C, emissions volumes must not exceed more than 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide, the IEA says. But emissions have already reached 390 ppm.

It said that another $15.2 trillion will need to be invested in low-carbon and energy efficiency technologies by 2035 to keep the warming to two degrees, the level agreed at UN climate change talks in Cancun last year. That cash will come out of a total energy supply investment of $35.6 trillion, the IEA said.

The agency’s warning follows on the heel of grim environmental news earlier in the week, when Oak Ridge National Lab said that GHG emissions jumped six percent in 2010, their largest one-year rise.

In May the IEA said that last year’s rise in GHGs has made it “extremely challenging” to prevent global temperature climbing to dangerous levels.

Later this month, international negotiators will meet in Durban to try and hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Signs have not been promising. The European Commission has offered to increase its 2020 emissions reduction target to 30 percent, and the EU is pushing for a deal by 2015. But other countries stand accused of delaying the commitment to 2018 or 2020.

A World Energy Outlook fact sheet is available here.

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