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Carbon Footprint Reduction Versus Energy Security

A Quick Review by Chandrabhan Sharma (Professor Energy Systems, The UWI, St Augustine Campus)

The COP24 meeting in December 2018 in Poland exposed to the world the factious and fractious nature of getting agreement on a common carbon reduction plan. Once a figure is deemed to impact a country’s continued economic development or financial health, this country starts to show disaffection for such a “rigid” or inflexible plan. The headlines in the IPCC’s report regarding cutting emissions 45% by 2030 and getting all the world’s electricity from renewables by the middle of the century, are all very well but impractical. A key point of the report was that successfully limiting climate change to 1.5C is not just about cutting emissions or making lifestyle changes or planting trees – it includes all of these and more, all being applied contemporaneously. The authors of the IPCC report concluded that rapid changes must take place in four key sectors of society: ? Energy generation ? Land use ? Cities ? Industry Prior to this meeting the G20 group met the month before, in November, in Argentina. It was an opportunity for members to develop global policies tackling major issues. But the rifts were laid bare at the start of the meeting with the host president, Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, saying the solution was “dialogue, dialogue and dialogue” and gave a clear message of shared responsibility. The G20, made up of 19 of the world’s most industrialised nations plus the EU, accounts for 85% of the world’s economic output and two-thirds of the world’s population. The group also emits 82% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, 77% of global energy consumption and would have essentially contributed to the CO2 concentration moving from the preindustrial figure to the current value. This leaves the next 130 odd countries with only 18% of the current global emissions. Figure1 below gives a pictograph of the world’s 10 top emitters with China and the US accounting for about 40% of the global total. The lowest 100 countries (193 countries in the UN) emit less than 3 percent of the globe’s greenhouse gases. (

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