Singapore International Energy Week
Discussion: Can we keep the door to 2C open?
October 22, 2012
Good afternoon. My name is Eileen Claussen and I'm delighted to be here at Singapore International Energy Week.
Many of you may have known my organization as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. About a year ago, we became the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – C2ES. Our focus remains the same: finding practical solutions to address two closely related challenges -- meeting the world’s growing demand for energy while averting the worst potential consequences of climate change.
You don't need me to tell you that the impacts of global warming are already here and now.
The global temperature has been above the 20th century average for 331 months in a row. That means the last time the global temperature was below average was February 1985. That's what they mean by the "new normal."
In my country, the United States, we had the hottest July ever. We've had one of the worst wildfire seasons in history. And two-thirds of the country is still experiencing the worst drought in more than half a century.
Here in Asia, damaging droughts, floods and storms have hurt the production of rice and taken lives.
These are the kinds of weather extremes that will become more frequent and more intense with climate change, unless we act.
We know that we need to change the way we produce energy. We need more low-carbon and zero-carbon energy, such as solar and wind. And we need to use our fossil fuels more wisely, by capturing and storing the carbon they emit.
But we also need to change the way we consume energy. We can no longer afford to waste it. Energy efficiency saves money, it reduces carbon emissions, and it improves our energy security.
How do we do it? Let me draw on a recent success story in the United States – the adoption of new vehicle fuel efficiency standards. These new standards will nearly double the fuel efficiency of the average new car by 2025. This represents the single largest step ever by the U.S. government to reduce carbon emissions.
Three critical factors made it possible: consumer commitment, technological progress, and smart public policy.
First, with gasoline prices going up and up, consumers were definitely on board for greater fuel economy.
Thanks to technological advances, including hybrid-electric drivetrains and high-strength steel, the auto industry certainly is capable of producing more efficient vehicles.
As for public policy, if you combine the government’s desire for more energy security with industry's desire for regulatory certainty, you can get to common ground.
Transportation is not the only sector where we can achieve greater energy efficiency. There are huge opportunities across our economies – in buildings, manufacturing, anywhere we use energy. And in many cases, we don’t need to wait on government to achieve huge gains. The opportunities are there, and smart companies are seizing them.
We undertook a two-year study of corporate energy efficiency to identify the most effective methods to reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions. For our report, From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency, we surveyed nearly 100 companies and conducted some very detailed case studies.
And we identified a number of keys to success. These include designating full-time staff to be accountable for energy performance; communicating about the company’s successes in reducing energy costs and emissions; and – perhaps most importantly – integrating sustainability as a core part of corporate strategic planning.
We also found that the benefits of energy efficiency go beyond dollars saved and emissions reduced. A focus on energy efficiency can drive broader innovation and a re-evaluation of business practices. The results are often improved productivity and quality.
So to conclude: Energy efficiency sits atop the list of low-carbon choices that can help transition us to a clean energy economy. But efficiency alone is hardly enough. As efficient as we become, global energy demand will continue to rise. And we will continue to meet much of that demand by burning fossil fuels.
So if we’re serious about a low-carbon transition, we need to be pushing on other fronts too. One of the most urgent priorities is putting in place the technologies needed to capture and store the carbon emissions generated by burning coal and natural gas. And that’s one area where strong policy, including carbon pricing, will be absolutely critical. But that’s a topic perhaps for another discussion.