A focus on efficiency in turn means recognising the importance of reducing energy intensity, which is most effectively achieved by the systematic application of a sectoral approach that concentrates efforts on the most energy intensive sectors first, pre-eminently power production, aluminium, cement and steel production. These are also sectors that are prime movers in modern economies.
We need to stimulate new thinking for enabling societies better to manage climate risks that they face today. All societies — rich and poor — are mal-adapted to climate to varying degrees, for example by locating expensive buildings in flood plains or human settlements on the very edge of the shoreline. All must evolve technologies, institutions and management practices which address the avoidable costs and damages wrought by climate. These initiatives and the sharing of good adaptation practice make sense irrespective of views on the degree to, and rate at, which climate risks are being changed by human activities. Adaptation policies should be untethered from those focused on decarbonisation.
III. Direct Decarbonization
Parallel actions to advance these three goals will be deservedly popular. They can also command the broadest assent and achieve the quickest results and thus build a constituency of public trust based on delivered performance, not windy rhetoric. That is an absolute prerequisite for securing the most arduous but most indispensable task: radical improvements in the unsubsidised cost and performance of zero or very low carbon energy supply.
We are aware that in a complex world, the solutions we propose are rather clumsy. We see this as a virtue. We propose no grand bargain.
Desired consequences often flow indirectly from strategies pursued for multiple reasons. China is currently increasing its deployment of renewables and nuclear plants, but it is understandably doing so for more than CO2 abatement reasons, including increasing its energy security, reducing its air pollution, and expanding its market leader status. France and Sweden have decarbonised more than any other nation through public deployment of nuclear power and hydro, respectively.
A. Innovation is Essential
There will be insufficient progress in accelerating the decarbonisation of the global economy until low carbon energy becomes reliably cheaper and provides reliability of supply. This will require significant, step-change improvement to currently available low carbon technologies. In short, we need to ignite effort to achieve an energy technology revolution in all the currently active areas: for solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity much more efficiently; for biofuels to be cheaply grown without intensive fossil fuel inputs and without an opportunity/cost for food production; for batteries to be less energy intensive to manufacture and to store much more energy in smaller amounts of space. For nuclear plants to become much cheaper they will likely need to be smaller, mass manufactured, proliferation-proof and need to store, recycle or otherwise find satisfactory solutions to their own waste.
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