Greenhouse Gas Will Soar by 50% if Policy Does Not Change Immediately: Report

Organization pleas to avert grim future

Global greenhouse gas emissions will rise 50 percent by 2050 unless current energy and climate policies change soon, according to a report released today by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). World energy demand in 2050 will be 80% higher and still 85% reliant on fossil fuel-based energy if current policy does not alter.

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OEDC recommends a 'a cocktail of policy solutions' including the use of environmental taxes and emissions trading schemes to make pollution more costly than greener alternatives, among other urgent policy shifts.

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Emissions Set to Surge 50 pct by 2050: OECD (Reuters):

Due to such dependence on fossils, carbon dioxide emissions from energy use are expected to grow by 70 percent, the OECD said, which will help drive up the global average temperature by 3 to 6 degrees Celsius by 2100 - exceeding the internationally agreed warming limit of within 2 degrees.

Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy reached an all-time high of 30.6 gigatonnes in 2010, despite the economic downturn which reduced industrial production. [...]

Human costs would also be high as premature deaths from pollution exposure could double to 3.6 million a year, the OECD said.

Demand for water could rise by 55 percent, increasing competition for supplies and resulting in 40 percent of the global population living in water-stressed areas, while plant and animal species could decline by a further 10 percent.

To prevent the worst effects of global warming, international climate action should start in 2013, a global carbon market be set up, the energy sector transformed to low carbon and all low-cost advanced technologies should be explored such as biomass energy and carbon capture.

However, a new international climate deal might not come into force until 2020 and carbon markets not linked until then, making it harder to achieve the 2 degree limit and requiring very rapid rates of emissions cuts after 2020 to catch up.

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Environment: Act Now or Face Costly Consequences(OECD):

These projections highlight the urgent need for new thinking. Failing that, the erosion of our environmental capital will increase the risk of irreversible changes that could jeopardise two centuries of rising living standards.

"We have already witnessed the collapse of some fisheries due to overfishing, with significant impacts on coastal communities, and severe water shortages are a looming threat to agriculture. These enormous environmental challenges cannot be addressed in isolation. They must be managed in the context of other global challenges, such as food and energy security, and poverty alleviation." says Gurria.

Well-designed policies to tackle environmental problems can also help to address other environmental challenges, and contribute to growth and development. Tackling local air pollution contributes not only to cutting GHG emissions but also to reducing the economic burden of chronic and costly health problems. Moreover, climate policies help protect biodiversity, for example by reducing emissions from deforestation.

To avert the grim future painted by the Environmental Outlook to 2050, the report recommends a cocktail of policy solutions: using environmental taxes and emissions trading schemes to make pollution more costly than greener alternatives; valuing and pricing natural assets and ecosystem services like clean air, water and biodiversity for their true worth; removing environmentally harmful subsidies to fossil fuels or wasteful irrigation schemes; and encouraging green innovation by making polluting production and consumption modes more expensive while providing public support for basic R&D.

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