Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Leak of Asia-Pacific climate policy

Apparently I’m not the only one talking about energy intensity.

A draft of the climate change declaration prepared by the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) Forum, which includes the US, Australia, China and others, was leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald last week. It is to be officially released next month, at a meeting oh so conveniently timed to coincide with the initial UN meetings on a post-Kyoto climate agreement.

The declaration – you can read it here – is a remarkably evasive document (if it is genuine...). It takes real craftsmanship to construct something like this.

The opening includes a call for a future global climate change framework based on a list of eight principles, none of which include the terms “greenhouse gas emissions”, “carbon emissions”, or for that matter, “climate change”. Then, betraying its roots in Bush Administration policy, the document calls for APEC nations to:

Agree that a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal will be a key component of the post-2012 framework

Aspirational, a word straight from the U.S. Government lexicon. As in I aspire to run the 100 m in 9.75 and reclaim rightful Canadian ownership over the record. And, am I paranoid, or is the use of the general term emissions, rather than greenhouse gas emissions, a trick used by the Conservative Government in Canada last year, just a wee bit suspicious?

But back to energy intensity. One of the few numerical targets is a 25% reduction in energy intensity by 2030. As I discussed recently, energy intensity or the energy use per dollar of GDP, has been declining for decades. Looking back at the graph of global energy intensity and emissions intensity over time, the global energy intensity actually decreased by 26% from1985 to 1995 (the last decade for which I have uninterrupted data; the IPCC reports a 33% drop from 1970 to 2004).

A 25% reduction in energy intensity, essentially producing more income with less energy is important, yes. Especially in China and India. But is it an accomplishment? No. Like the US and Canadian targets based on emissions intensity, this target is a farce. It is destined to happen with or without a "climate" policy. The real advance, as the graph shows, would be a decrease in the greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy production.

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