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IAEA Offers Climate Change Strategies

Roundtable Highlights IAEA Services to Lessen Climate Change Impact

Bac Ninh Province

The hands of Dr. Nguyen Thi Vinh hold rice grown in Bac Ninh Province near Hanoi. She and her colleagues at the Institute of Agricultural Genetics have developed many new varieties of rice that today help feed Vietnam´s families and add to the country´s export earnings. The IAEA is among several agencies that are supporting their efforts. (Bac Ninh Province, North Vietnam, October 11, 2004)

During the IAEA General Conference, a roundtable received the first comprehensive presentation of the Agency´s work to help Member States reduce, mitigate and adapt to climate change´s impact upon their populations. The IAEA´s nuclear research to extend scientific understanding of this phenomenon and inform policy decision-making on climate change responses was also showcased.

The meeting also looked forward to the global climate negotiations, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP15), to be held in Copenhagen in December. The CoP15´s main challenge is to negotiate a new international environmental agreement to take effect after 2012.

Mr. Marc-Gerard Albert of France, the Roundtable Chair, remarked that climate change is an issue with ramifications for all of the major global, social and economic challenges the international community is now confronting. To support human development, broader energy access is essential. Energy demand is thus expected to increase substantially, potentially producing more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and thereby worsening climate change´s impact. To mitigate this trend, nuclear energy cannot be ignored as it is one of the major available power generation options. Nuclear energy delivers large-scale, baseline energy, while emitting over the lifecycle of a power plant the lowest GHG concentrations of any of the available alternatives.

"If you are serious about climate change, you cannot ignore nuclear energy," stated Holger Rogner, Head of the IAEA´s Planning and Economic Studies, who leads the IAEA´s effort to offer objective, expert energy and economic planning advice. Since 1997, this group has been supporting delegations negotiating international climate treaties. In addition, the IAEA provides over 100 Member States long-term, integrated energy planning analysis that takes into account each nation´s energy, environmental, social and economic circumstances.

"Strategies to reduce vulnerability and bolster a nation´s capacity to adapt to climate change-induced effects, are urgently needed in developing countries," said Andy Garner, representing the IAEA´s Nuclear Applications Department. Climate change is disrupting seasonal weather and rain patterns, accelerating glacial ice loss, exacerbating storm frequency and ferocity, contributing to longer droughts and flooding disasters, degrading soil fertility, and speeding the migration of pest insects, invasive plant species and infectious animal diseases. Through nuclear applications, temperature and drought-resistant crops strains are developed; fresh water reserves are located and mapped; and water pollution tracking and soil conservation tools are developed.

Nuclear applications are powerful tools in understanding the drivers of climate change. Maria Betti, the Director of the Agency´s Marine Environment Laboratories in Monaco, explained that the Agency is engaged in developing the analysis necessary to formulate "an effective response to mitigate or adapt to climate change by using nuclear reconstruction of past climate events to estimate the effect of future developments." This research and analysis will also enable Member States to test and verify models and then develop appropriate responses. The Laboratories use nuclear techniques and isotopes to map increasing ocean temperatures and acidification, as well as shifting ocean currents, which are growing threats for marine biodiversity and sustainability, as well as potent influences on weather and storm patterns.

"Nuclear energy can help decarbonise energy production," stated Janice Dunn Lee, Deputy Director General of the OECD´s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), which publishes the Nuclear Energy Outlook. Rising carbon dioxide emissions are forcing climate change. The NEA´s Nuclear Energy Outlook foresees at least a doubling in global energy demand by 2050. This development is predicted to result in a significant expansion of nuclear power production. The NEA is promoting programs to speed the introduction of innovative reactor designs that can meet the accelerating energy demand, and offer greater operational safety, efficiency, and proliferation-resistance while reducing waste.

The Roundtable on the IAEA and Climate Change, co-sponsored by Canada, China, India, Japan and the United States, was chaired by France.

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