VIENNA Energy efficiency for power plants, cars
or homes is the easiest way to slow global warming in a
long-term investment shift that will cost hundreds of billions
of dollars, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
A U.N. report about climate investments, outlined to a
meeting in Vienna of 1,000 delegates from 158 nations, also
said emissions of greenhouse gases could be curbed more cheaply
in developing nations than in rich states in coming decades.
The cash needed to return rising emissions, mainly from
burning fossil fuels, to current levels by 2030 would amount to
0.3 to 0.5 percent of projected gross domestic product (GDP),
or 1.1 to 1.7 percent of global investment flows, in 2030, it
"Energy efficiency is the most promising means to reduce
greenhouse gases in the short term," said Yvo de Boer, the head
of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, presenting the report
to the August 27-31 meeting.
That could mean tougher standards for cars, factories,
coal-fired power plants or buildings in using fossil fuels.
And government policies could encourage people to pick
energy efficient light bulbs, for instance, or discourage them
from wasting energy by heating empty outdoor terraces.
The 216-page report was published online last week.
De Boer said the study could help guide governments,
meeting in Austria to discuss a longer-term strategy against
global warming beyond the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol. The protocol
binds 35 rich nations to cap emissions of greenhouse gases by
The report estimates that "global additional investment and
financial flows of $200 billion-$210 billion will be necessary
in 2030 to return greenhouse gas emissions to current levels,"
including measures for energy supply, forestry and transport.
The study foresees a shift to renewable energies such as
solar and hydropower, and some nuclear power. Environmentalists
say that the report lacks ambition and that emissions need to
be below current levels by 2030.
CARBON MARKETS EXPANDED
The report also estimates that investments in helping
nations adapt to the impact of climate change would run to tens
of billions of dollars in 2030, such as treating more cases of
malaria or building dykes to protect beaches from rising seas.
It said carbon markets would have to be "significantly
expanded to address needs for additional investments and
financial flows." Companies are now responsible for about 60
percent of global investments.
Harlan Watson, the chief U.S. climate negotiator, said it
was unclear how governments could mobilize such vast
investments by the private sector. "That's a key question," he
The report fills in some gaps in a wider picture given by
previous studies such as one by former World Bank chief
economist Nicholas Stern saying it would be cheaper to confront
climate change now than wait to combat the consequences.
U.N. reports this year have also projected that warming
will bring more heat waves, droughts, disease and rising seas.
De Boer said investments to developing nations should rise.
"The bulk of cost-effective opportunities are in developing
countries," he said, adding that did not mean that rich nations
should seek only to invest abroad rather than at home.
"More than half the energy investment needed is in
developing countries," he said. China is opening coal-fired
power plants at a rate of two per week to feed its growing
economy and cleaner technology would help the climate.