Market News

 September 29, 2006
Carbon capture can stabilize emissions - report

 London, UK (GLOBE-Net) -- 'Business as usual' approaches by both developed and developing countries could lead to a doubling of global carbon emissions by 2050, says a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). However, adopting strategies that include a greener fuel mix, greater gains in energy efficiency, and widespread use of carbon capture and storage could allow for healthy growth with reduced emissions, concludes the lead author of the report.

Rapid growth of countries such as China and India could have serious long term consequences for global energy consumption and carbon emissions, says John Hawksworth, Head of Macroeconomics for PwC in the United Kingdom. Taking no adaptive action would lead to a drastic rise in carbon emissions, warns The World in 2050: Implications of global growth for carbon emissions and climate change policy.

The author presents an alternative scenario, dubbed "Green Growth Plus", which includes expansion of alternative fuels and energy sources, annual energy efficiency gains over and above the historic trends, and use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. This strategy could stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 2050 at what current scientific consensus suggests would be broadly acceptable levels, says the study.

According to Hawksworth, the G7 economies - the US, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy and Canada - may need to take the lead in reducing their carbon emissions, given that emissions from the faster-growing emerging economies will almost certainly continue to rise over the next few decades. The "E7" emerging economies - China, India, Brazil, Russia, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey -- have the potential for rapid growth and will increase their use of fossil fuels to support their economies, he notes.

As E7 countries grow in relative size to G7 economies they increasingly will provide the 'motor for global growth' and could account for almost half of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 according to the model used. This poses the question of whether the world can sustain such growth without serious negative impacts on the global climate.

The chart below shows how the baseline scenario used in the report could be adapted to achieve reduced fuel emissions. The top line represents the baseline case, the second shows increased use of 'greener' fuels, the third shows greener fuels in combination with energy efficiency improvements, and the lowest line represents use of alternative fuels and energy efficiency with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

The baseline case predicts relatively high use of coal by China and India, while in reality they may switch towards alternative fuels, the authors note. Currently, fossil fuels represent nearly 94 percent of energy supplies in both countries.

The report also shows how emissions for each country might need to be reduced in order to achieve the 'Green growth + CCS' scenario. G7 countries will need to cut emissions to half of current levels by 2050, while E7 economies would be able to increase their emissions by around 30 percent from current levels.

This will be because developing economies will generally be more industrial and energy-intensive than the service-based economies of the G7, and are projected to grow twice as fast as the G7, the report says.

G7 countries will also need to take the lead on reducing their own emissions if they are to convince emerging economies to sacrifice growth to tackle an emissions problem which has been almost entirely caused by developed nations up to this point, the authors say.

The report also shows the increasing emissions contribution of the E7 countries. China will overtake the United States as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter by 2010 according to the model, while total E7 emissions would more than double total G7 emissions by 2050. According to PwC projections, China's economy could surpass the United States' in 2016, and be nearly 43 percent larger by 2050, while the Indian economy would be around half the size of the US economy by 2025 and around the same size by 2050.

The 'Big 3' economies of China, the US, and India are projected to account for just over half of global emissions by 2050 in both scenarios, up from around 45 percent today. The European Union's share is set to decline from 15 percent today to just under 9 percent by 2050.

Hawksworth concludes: "Our analysis suggests that there are technologically feasible and relatively low-cost options for controlling carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Estimates suggest that the level of GDP might be reduced by no more than around 2-3% in 2050 if this strategy was followed, equivalent to sacrificing only around a year of economic growth for the sake of reducing carbon emissions in 2050 by around 60% compared to our baseline scenario."

"But if this is to be achieved, it will take further concerted action by governments, businesses and individuals over a broad range of measures to boost energy efficiency, adopt a greener fuel mix, and introduce carbon capture and storage technologies in power plants and other major industrial facilities."

The PwC study can be found (PDF) click here.