Energy and carbon market analysts have issued a dire warning at a summit in London, where they told the international community that the current pace of clean energy investment won't be enough to halt the worst effects of climate change in the coming years.
Global Futures 2009, a report tabled at a summit in London sponsored by the New Energy Finance (NEF), says the world economic crisis appears to be drying up funding for lower-carbon energy solutions - and that could have a lasting impact.
According to the NEF report, scientists fear that unless growth of emissions stops and peaks by 2020 (at the latest), the Earth will be at the strongest risk for severe and irreversible climate change. The NEF says current investment in clean energy sources is not at pace to deal effectively with the impending environmental crisis.
According to the NEF:
Investment in clean energy is expected to hold steady at around US$150 billion per year through the current economic downturn.
In the Global Futures 2009 base scenario, the current investment pace and projections are insufficient to drive down carbon emissions from the energy system before 2030.
Total clean energy investment is set to reach $270 billion by 2015 and $350 billion by 2020.
Investment needs to reach $500 billion per year by 2020 if CO2 emissions from the world's energy system are to peak before then.
Otherwise, under the base scenario, emissions from fuel combustion are expected to rise from 28 Gtonnes of CO2 today to nearly 36 Gtonnes of CO2 by 2030.
The NEF says that while the recession has slowed down economic output and, therefore, has reduced carbon emissions, the reduction is not enough to counter the need for improved investment in clean energy sources and research.
The NEF noted that more investment is needed in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. It also said carbon capture and storage technologies need to be fostered, as does the switch from coal-fired to gas-fired power stations.
New Energy Finance added that countering global change makes environmental and economic sense. It estimates that the investment needed to halt rising carbon emissions by 2020 is roughly 0.44 per cent of global GDP.
"Failure to address climate change, on the other hand," according to the NEF, "is estimated in the (British government's) Stern Review and elsewhere to cost the world at least five per cent of global GDP."