A group of more than 85 companies and organizations from around the world—including GE, major power companies, and AB Volvo—have endorsed a post-Kyoto framework for affecting change at the levels of policy and industry, particularly in regard to creating sustainable energy systems necessary for achieving economic growth.
The Path to Climate Sustainability: A Joint Statement by the Global Roundtable on Climate Change (GROCC) lays out a framework for global action to mitigate risks and impacts while also meeting the global need for energy, economic growth and sustainable development.
As the CO2 concentration rises, the impacts on the planet also mount. Some leading scientists put the threshold for “dangerous anthropogenic interference” as low as 450 ppm because of serious risks of major sea level rises, changes in weather patterns, and the extinction of many species. Broad scientific consensus exists about the risks of reaching 560 ppm, which is sometimes called 2X CO2 because 560 ppm is twice the pre-industrial concentration of 280 ppm. However, even this higher threshold will be very hard to avoid unless strong actions are adopted in the near future. A “business-as-usual” path, meanwhile, could put the planet well above 750 ppm and perhaps at triple pre-industrial CO2 levels (that is, 840 ppm) by the end of the century.
The challenge is clear. Society must move reliably and swiftly toward a de-carbonized energy system and must do so in a manner that minimizes the transition costs, avoids economic dislocations, and does not jeopardize the economic development of poorer countries. Transition strategies should aim to reduce and/or compensate adjustment costs on workers affected by the move to de-carbonized energy systems.
...Cost-efficient technologies exist today, and others could be developed and deployed, to improve energy efficiency and to help reduce emissions of CO2 and other GHGs in major sectors of the global economy. Research indicates that heading off the very dangerous risks associated with doubling pre-industrial atmospheric concentrations of CO2, while an immense challenge, can be achieved at a reasonable cost. Failing to act now would lead to far higher economic and environmental costs and greater risk of irreversible impacts.—GROCC statement
To meet the challenge, the statement calls for:
The world’s governments to set scientifically informed targets, including an ambitious but achievable interim, mid-century target for global CO2 concentrations, for “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” in accordance with the stated objective of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
All countries should be party to this accord, which should include specific near- and long-term commitments for action in pursuit of the agreed targets. Commitments for actions by individual countries should reflect differences in levels of economic development and GHG emission patterns and the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.
Clear, efficient mechanisms should be established to place a market price on carbon emissions that is reasonably consistent worldwide and across sectors in order to reward efficiency and emission avoidance, encourage innovation, and maintain a level playing field among possible technological options.
Government policy initiatives should address energy efficiency and de-carbonization in all sectors, allow businesses to choose among a range of options as they strive to minimize GHG emissions and costs, encourage the development and rapid deployment of low-emitting and zero-emitting energy and transportation technologies, and provide incentives to reduce emissions from deforestation and harmful land management practices.
Governments, the private sector, trade unions, and other sectors of civil society should undertake efforts to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change, since climate change will occur even in the context of highly effective mitigation efforts.
Signatories to this statement will support scientific processes including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); work to increase public awareness of climate change risks and solutions; report information on their GHG emissions; engage in GHG emissions mitigation, which can include emissions trading schemes; champion demonstration projects; and support public policy efforts to mitigate climate change and its impacts.
De-carbonization can be achieved in two ways. The first is to increase the use of non-fossil-fuel-based energy sources. Potential options here include wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal, wave, nuclear, waste-to-energy, and/or biomass. The choices among these technologies will depend on costs, safety, public acceptance, and other considerations. Effective and relatively cost-efficient technologies exist for some of these options today and others could be developed and deployed. Significantly increasing the use of such energy sources, both when building new infrastructure and when replacing fossil fuel facilities, is essential if we are to meet the climate change challenge while meeting global energy needs.
The second is to adopt technologies that permit the use of fossil fuels while preventing the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. One of the main options here is carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)—gathering and storing the CO2 produced by burning or gasifying fossil fuels. CCS technologies that capture CO2 emissions at the source (from a power plant, for example) and then sequester them beneath the Earth’s surface have been proven technically but need to be demonstrated commercially and at the scale required to make a significant impact on efforts to de-carbonize the global energy system.
Pursuing CCS should not be seen as an alternative to achieving significantly greater energy efficiency or greatly expanding the use of non-fossil-fuel-based energy sources but rather as an additional and important component to a comprehensive 21st century energy strategy.
On the transportation front, the statement notes that all forms of transport (cars, buses, and trucks in particular, but also trains, planes, and ships), can become substantially more efficient, in some cases through measures such as design and operational improvements, hybrid power systems, and lightweight design. Increasing levels of de-carbonization in the transport sector can be pursued by adopting biofuels, hydrogen, electricity produced by low- or zero-carbon emission technologies, and/or more efficient conversion technologies such as fuel cells. Mass-transit, traffic management, and commuting strategies can also help to decrease aggregate emissions from transport sector.
Emphasis is placed on taking advantage of existing technologies and accelerating development of promising new ones in order to significantly increase energy efficiency, dramatically expand the use of non-fossil fuel energy sources, and greatly reduce emissions from the fossil fuels likely to remain in use. Companies themselves pledge to take action in their own operations as well, from seeking reductions of their own emissions to working to increase public and industry understanding of both the risks of climate change and potential solutions.
The signatories include ABB, Air France, Alcan, Alcoa, Allianz, American Electric Power, BASF, Bayer, Ceres, China Renewable Energy Industry Association, Citigroup, Doosan Babcock Energy Ltd., DuPont, Electricité de France North America, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, ENDA Energy, ENDESA, Eni, Eskom, Exelon, FPL Group, General Electric, Iberdrola, ING, Interface, International Paper, International Power, Marsh & McLennan Companies, MEDIAS-France, Munich Re, National Power Company of Iceland, NRG Energy, Patagonia, Reyjavik Energy, Ricoh, Rio Tinto Energy Services, Rolls Royce, Sea Breeze Power, Stora Enso North America, Suntech Power, Swiss Re, Vattenfall, Volvo, World Council of Churches, World Petroleum Council, and many others.
Since 2004, the diverse members of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, an initiative of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, has convened more than 100 high-level stakeholders and experts twice a year to explore areas of potential consensus regarding core scientific, technological, and economic issues critical to shaping public policies on climate change. The Joint Statement is an outcome of these dialogues, and was built on careful discussion over the past three years.
Individuals can also take a step toward combating climate change by adding their name to a growing global call for action at www.NextGenerationEarth.org. The Web site, launched today, gives people an opportunity to have their voices heard on issues of global well being and environmental sustainability. The climate principles on the Web site are based on elements of the Roundtable's Joint Statement.