The speed with which advanced energy technologies are developed and adopted will be the single most important factor in determining how quickly and at what cost greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be reduced, according to a report issued last week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. But the prospect of an effective international climate change deal coming out of the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, which is scheduled for early December in Copenhagen, Denmark, "is not very bright," the report concludes.

"An accelerated program to improve the performance and lower the costs of advanced alternate energy technologies can, if successful, broaden the range of economically and politically viable options available to policymakers. National and international climate policy should concentrate on supporting greater energy efficiency and commercialization of low-carbon technologies for energy supply," according to the report, The Prospects for Copenhagen: More Realism Can Smooth the Way.

Achieving a 50% reduction in global GHG emissions by 2050 "would required large and expensive emissions reductions and avoidances, most of which would have to occur in developing countries." Any agreement coming out of Copenhagen would be "ultimately nonbinding and unenforceable" and without commitments from developing countries, including China and India, "prospects for meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases remain dim." An estimated 80% or more of the growth in global emissions in the next four decades is expected to come from developing countries.

According to the Chamber, which said it will be pushing for a strong international agreement to reduce GHG emissions at Copenhagen next month, a successful agreement must set realistic goals, recognize growing energy needs, ensure global participation, promote technology, encourage trade and must not weaken intellectual property.

The report is available at

The Chamber has been a strong critic of the Obama administration and of federal climate change legislation, which has led to the defection of some prominent members, including Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Exelon Corp. and PNM Resources (see NGI, Oct. 5). Climate change legislation pending in Congress would kill jobs while making little or no difference to global carbon dioxide concentrations, according to the Chamber.

World leaders must agree on "an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change that responds credibly to the scale and urgency of the crisis facing the world today," according to The Copenhagen Communique, a statement published jointly by the business leaders of more than 500 companies from around the world that participated in the UN Summit on Climate Change in New York in September (see NGI, Sept. 28). Speaking before the summit, President Obama said the United States is "determined to act" as the "threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing."

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