The need to accelerate global economic growth as a key source of job creation and improvement of living conditions is something that nobody disagrees upon. Proof of this is the recent goal established by G20 in Brisbane (Australia). During the meeting world leaders reaffirmed their goal to grow their GDPs, that represent 85% of the world economy, an additional 2% in the next four years. This represents an increase of $2 billion dollars in the world production and hopefully help create millions of jobs.
The crossroads at which the world faces today is that economic growth is directly linked to energy consumption especially in emerging economies, where it is expected the majority of global growth will come from in the decades to come.
Therefore, the world faces an evident energy dilemma. On one hand, energy consumption (particularly electricity) grows exponentially and is expected to double in the next 20 years. At the same time, if we don´t want to see dramatic change in global climate, we must cut in half the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. In a world where more than 75% of the energy matrix is based on the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), this all seems an unsolvable dilemma.
I´m convinced that, yes, there’s a solution and I can see opportunities in energy generation and demand. When we talk about generation, we must undoubtedly encourage renewable energy (solar, wind, hydro, etc, etc) and other technologies that allow us to reduce CO2 emissions. May we not forget that it’s not simple to change the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix – it takes decades to do this, once a power plant keeps its operating for at least 40 or 50 years.
On the demand side, we must pay attention to how we are currently using the energy we consume. There are technologies that allow us to save up to 30% of the energy we consume, most importantly, the impact of these new technologies can be seen immediately! Let us dream for a moment and imagine that we were able, together, to implement these solutions worldwide: this would save approximately the energy produced by some 2,000 coal-fired power plants and about 800 million tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere. The impact would be huge!
This is the dilemma facing the world today, during COP-20 we will try to find a solution. This new multi treaty will replace The Kyoto Protocol. In Lima, we should see the first draft of it and as a result of the negotiations that takes place in Lima between December 1 and 12.
In conclusion, we cannot (nor do we wish) to stop economic growth. On the contrary, we want to accelerate it in order to increase the number of jobs and improve living conditions. At the same time, we cannot keep putting our planet at risk. Therefore, the solution must be a more efficient use of available energy, which allows us to accommodate additional growth using less energy resources. This is not only possible (there are solutions available today) but also economically profitable, with lower investment returns in 2 or 3 years. What we need then is to leverage this discussion as a priority through appropriate incentives.
On December 11, 2014, I will be leading a committee of experts from Schneider Electric joining COP-20 in the seminar “How energy can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases: an overview of the smart cities, smart grids, renewable energy generation and energy efficiency”. If you are in Lima I encourage you to participate in the session.