IAEA, Partners Highlight Economics of Climate Change Mitigation

Hydro, wind and nuclear power produce the smallest amounts of GHG emissions on life cycle basis, IAEA's Ferenc Toth (second left) said during the COP19 side event on 18 November 2013 in Warsaw. (Photo: L. Hansson/IAEA)

Everyone wants to decrease the impact of climate change on the environment. Everyone wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But is it economically feasible? How would these reductions affect the global energy, trade and maritime sectors? Experts provided insights on these questions at an IAEA-chaired side event at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (also referred to as the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP19) in Warsaw.

The panel discussion on 18 November 2013 on the Economics of Mitigation: Energy Sector, Global Trade, and International Maritime Transport featured speakers from the IAEA, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Poland's Ministry of Economy, and the International Chamber of Shipping.

Mitigation in the energy sector was the focus of the IAEA's presentation, given by Ferenc Toth, Senior Energy Economist at the Planning and Economics Studies Section in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy. He pointed out that the Copenhagen Accord, agreed at the 2009 COP15, commits Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to control emissions of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) so that the increase of global mean temperature would not exceed 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels.

"Hydro, wind and nuclear power produce the smallest amounts of GHG emissions on a life cycle basis," Mr. Toth said. "Solar, wind and nuclear energy have also the lowest external costs, which include damage to human health and to environment and that cover the whole fuel cycle from mining to waste disposal."

Solar, fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear and wind are projected to have the largest shares in an economically efficient mitigation portfolio by 2050 according to the OECD's International Energy Agency (IEA). "Any restriction or exclusion of using any technology from the mitigation portfolio would increase the costs and reduce the environmental effectiveness of mitigation policies," Mr. Toth added. "Cost efficiency, environmental effectiveness and timely reduction measures are important factors to consider in the 2015 UNFCCC agreement on mitigation commitments and implementation mechanisms."

In a second presentation arranged by the IAEA, Zbigniew Kubacki, Director of the Nuclear Energy Department in Poland's Ministry of Economy, presented the linkages between climate change policy and the Polish Nuclear Power Programme. "The programme is a strategic part of our energy policy to secure long-term electricity supply at acceptable prices and to reduce emissions of CO2 and other air pollutants according to the EU regulations," he said. Poland's two planned nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of about 6000 MWe are projected to produce about 50 TWh of electricity per year and to save 35 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.

The IMO representative discussed the economics of mitigation for international maritime transport in the regulatory framework and from the industry perspectives, and the WTO expert presented the role of the multilateral trading system in furthering climate strategies. More than 80 participants attended the side event which ended with a lively discussion session. The presentations made at the this UN System side event are available at the UNFCCC website.

Earlier this month, the IAEA issued its report on Climate Change and Nuclear Power 2013, which highlights nuclear power's contribution to the global climate change agenda. Building on the imperative that future low-carbon energy choices are necessary to reduce GHG emissions by 50 to 85% by 2050, as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it summarizes the potential role of nuclear power in mitigating global climate change and its contribution to other development and environment challenges. It also examines broader issues relevant for the climate change - nuclear energy nexus, such as costs, safety, waste management and non-proliferation.

Last update: 10 September 2014