Action on energy efficiency needed now

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Do something. That’s now a familiar call to arms from climate action advocates. But most don’t readily have practical science-based specifics on what that something is that governments and businesses should do.

Fortunately, the International Energy Agency (IEA) does.

The global energy research and policy advisement organization recently released a report on the contribution improved energy efficiency could make in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Energy efficiency might not have the street protest cachet of renewables-versus-fossil-fuels, but it has the advantage of measurable results.

The IEA’s Energy Efficiency 2018 report examines the many ways global energy efficiency could be improved over the next two decades. It bases its estimates on a world with 60% more building space, 20% more people and a GDP that is double what it is today. Those increases will significantly affect energy demand, use and production, so energy efficiency will be critical in controlling their contribution to GHG emissions.

Among the report’s findings: energy efficiency gains could “allow the world to extract twice as much economic value from the energy it uses today.”

It also estimates that efficiency would cut consumer energy bills by more than US$500 billion annually and, by 2040, provide 40% of the GHG reductions the world needs to meet Paris Agreement commitments.

Evidence illustrating energy efficiency’s economic and environmental value has already been documented.

As the IEA notes, its gains since 2000 eliminated the need to produce 12% more energy in 2017.

But energy efficiency will not improve solely on the principle that it’s the right thing to do.

It will take co-ordinated commitments from government to draft effective legislation and incentives for businesses to make the massive investment needed.

The payoffs for business promise to be huge. But the real beneficiary will be Earth.

For that recipient, humanity has little choice, because as one protest slogan rightly points out: There is no Planet B.