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While governments are distracted by the ongiong financial crisis, energy and climate change are slipping down the agenda, Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency, told Friends of Europe’s annual energy summit.
As a result, the direction of trends relating to oil security and global warming are becoming much more serious, he said. Despite policies being in place around the world to tackle climate change, the global economy became less energy efficient in 2010, CO2 emissions hit a record high and the amount of spending on oil imports was also at record levels, making it more difficult for nations to tackle the financial crisis.
Nonetheless, Europe has a commitment to cut its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and is set to publish an Energy Roadmap detailing how it will do this by the end of the year. One key priority will be a pan-European energy infrastructure, said Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Energy. “The world has been networked, but our energy systems are still limited by nations that have existed since the 19th century,” he pointed out.
However, with the financial crisis limiting the ability of both the public and private sector to fund new infrastructure, consumers will be asked to pay for this new energy network, the summit heard.
To help make this more palatable for consumers, energy companies should emphasise the job creation benefits of this investment, said Auke Lont, Chief Executive Officer of the Norwegian Transmission System Operator, Statnett.
Gas, both conventional and unconventional, could act as a bridge to a low-carbon future, said Heinrich Herm Stapelberg, Public & Government Affairs Manager, Central Europe at ExxonMobil but there is a risk of locking in fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come, warned Sven Teske, Director of the Greenpeace International Renewable Energy Campaign.