How sustainable energy is addressing air quality

Increasingly we are reading about serious air pollution problems. Most recently, New Delhi has been in the news with its terrible air quality concerns. Stefan Jungcurt writes a good article on the International Institute for Sustainable Development SDG Knowledge Hub website on the role that sustainable energy can and should play to address air quality.


Energy Update: Unprecedented Smog Renews Focus on Renewables and Energy Efficiency

The ‘World Energy Outlook Special Report 2016: Energy and Air Pollution,’ published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in June 2016, developed a global outlook for energy and air pollution and explores the health benefits and costs of improving air quality through reduced energy-related emissions.

The report outlines a “Clean Air Scenario,” in which policies to achieve the climate pledges made during the Paris Climate Change Conference (New Policies Scenario) are combined with a three-step strategy for cleaner air consisting of: an ambitious long-term air quality goal; a clean air strategy for the energy sector; and effective procedures for monitoring, enforcement, evaluation and communication. In addition, the Clean Air Scenario assumes aligning clean air policies with energy policy objectives with regard to climate change, energy access, and energy security and regulation of energy imports.

The report analyzes how the Clean Air Scenario would affect the energy and air quality outlook for 2040 for the following countries and regions: China, India, Mexico and the U.S., and Africa, the EU and Southeast Asia. In India, for example, policies consistent with the Clean Air Scenario could reduce emissions of fine particulate matter by 80% below the levels expected under the New Policies Scenario. This would reduce the share of the population exposed to extreme air pollution from more than 60% to below 20%.

Another IEA report released ahead of the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, titled ‘Energy, Climate Change and Environment 2016 Insights,’ discusses policies required to accelerate the transformation of the energy sector to meet the increased ambition of the Paris Agreement for keeping global temperature increase “well-below 2°C” compared to pre-industrial levels. The report explains that reaching this goal will require dramatic reductions in electricity generation from unabated coal plants, which can be achieved using decommissioning regulations, dispatch rules, carbon pricing and other policies. It states that even moderate carbon prices can support the dispatch of low-carbon generation options. While noting that the Paris Agreement has “reinvigorated” the deployment of renewable energies, the report shows that even higher rates of adoption are required, in particular in the heating and transport sectors.

With regard to increasing energy efficiency, the study recommends measures that improve energy productivity in order to continue decoupling economic growth and energy use. Another approach to enhancing mitigation is, according to the report, targeting state-owned enterprises with measures adapted to their specific characteristics. Finally, the report stresses the need to make the delivery of energy services resilient to climate change, and outlines tracking tools and data services needed to promote an energy sector transition.

One of the most effective ways to reduce emissions from energy generation and delivery is using less energy in the first place. Energy efficiency is moving into the spotlight with initiatives such as the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), an autonomous partnership of 16 major economies seeking to “accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency practices and politics,” including through the implementation of the G20’s energy efficiency plans. IPEEC published the ‘Energy Efficiency Magazine,’ which showcases energy efficiency initiatives ranging from governmental action in different geographical regions, international institutions and NGOs, to technical, legal and financial innovations to support energy efficiency.

Said Mouline, CEO of the Moroccan Agency for Energy Efficiency (AMEE) argues that energy efficiency can be the cheapest and fastest pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, provided that energy policies are internally consistent. This means, for example, that fossil fuel subsidies must be replaced with support that brings energy efficiency technologies to disadvantaged groups. In the same vein, Benoit Lebot, IPEEC Executive Director, makes the case for increasing financing for investments in building technical capacity, gathering and analyzing energy efficiency data and helping developing countries make technical strides.

The magazine also presents the International Energy Efficiency Initiative (IEEI) championed by the Moroccan government in its role as the UNFCCC COP 22 President. Hosted under the Global Programme on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (GPREEE), the initiative will build partnerships that aim to promote the “rapid diffusion of energy efficiency and small-scale renewable energy best practices,” by assisting decision makers in obtaining necessary information and building capacity for the implementation of national determined contributions (NDCs).

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