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Decarbonising the energy sector

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

A new IEA publication has been released that examines an array of available policy options that would allow countries to reduce GHG emissions. The report looks at how to accelerate the decarbonisation of coal fired power generation, how best to implement emissions trading systems (ETS) and how clean air policies can most effectively contribute to mitigating climate change.

Energy, Climate Change and Environment; 2014 Insights

The report addresses the linkages between air pollution policies and GHG emissions, and examines how this highly topical issue with global relevance is playing out differently in the US and China, the world’s largest emitters. It also finds that while efforts by China’s government to improve air quality may also help reduce GHG emissions, policies must be structured to achieve these dual objectives. In the US the government is adapting longstanding air pollution regulations to target GHG reductions, expecting significant air quality co-benefits as a result. How these diverse policies are managed will have important implications for both countries as they seek to fulfil their commitments announced in November’s joint US-China climate deal.

The publication also looks at ETS implementation and operation as a means of pricing carbon to advance energy system decarbonisation. As well as analysing key ETS design choices, the report examines how to improve the integration of a carbon trading system with other complementary energy and climate policies, and to better manage the impact on electricity prices. The report also explains how an ETX can be implemented in a more regulated energy system like China’s, and considers how the rise of such markets could affect an international climate agreement.

Previous analysis

Previously, analysis in the IEA’s ‘World Energy Outlook Special Report: Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map’ has highlighted that the global decarbonisation challenge will not only require greater investment in clean energy technologies, but that existing locked in high emissions infrastructure must be addressed as well, but this is unlikely to occur without policy intervention.

Measuring progress

When energy sector decarbonisation is underway, it will need to be tracked and the new report from the IEA offers a detailed look at various metrics. These include GHG focused measures but also alternative metrics that can be framed around energy efficiency, new investment in power generation and even advances in research, development and deployment, helping to identify opportunities for actions with long term as well as short term impacts. The publication also assesses whether and how such metrics might be of use to monitor and advance the diverse range of nationally determined mitigation goals that are expected to emerge in any new global climate agreement reached at the 2015 UN climate talks in Paris.

Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd

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