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close this bookSustainable Energy News - No. 21 May 1998 (INFORSE, 1998, 20 p.)
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Baltic 21

Will ten prime ministers around the Baltic Sea go for sustainable development in June?

By Gunnar Boye Olesen,
INFORSE-Europe Coordinator

What are the visions for sustainable development in a region of industrialised countries? This question was raised by the prime ministers of the 10 countries around the Baltic Sea when they met in 1996. Now, almost two years later, more or less clear pictures appear for the seven sectors that were analysed since then in intergovernmental discussions.

In the energy sector, the vision of the process follows a "sustainable development scenario" with phase-out of nuclear power and reduction of CO2 emissions by 30% in 1995-2030. This official scenario involves increased use of cogeneration of heat and power, a shift from coal to gas, renewable energy, and an increase in energy efficiency.

The scenario includes economic growth both east and west of the former iron curtain, but by far the most growth is estimated in the eastern parts, leading to almost a closing of the income gap between east and west by the year 2030. This growth imposes additional demands for energy services, as well as increased costs. However, it is estimated that the district heat and electricity prices can be kept stable and that the overall cost of the energy supply can be reduced from 7% of GNP to 4% of GNP.

NGOs for More Reductions

INFORSE-Europe, Friends of the Earth, and the Coalition Clean Baltic participated as NGO networks in the process.

As NGOs, we had to conclude that the "sustainable development scenario", described above, is not sufficient to support sustainable development with equal opportunities for the developing world.

50% vs 30% CO2 Reduction

If we want sustainable development with global CO2 reductions of 50% by the middle of the next century, we have to reduce the CO2 emissions in the industrialised countries by 80-90% by 2050 and 50-80% by 2030. This would allow the developing countries to raise their living standards, which, even if done efficiently, will increase CO2 emissions. Such a CO2 reduction by industrialized nations will lead to stabilisation of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, and will probably limit the global warming to +1°C during the next century. If the climate change is limited to this level, we will avoid the mass destruction of ecosystems that more warming could bring, and only a few islanders will have to pack up and leave their flooded is lands.(1)

(1)With these reductions it will he possible to keep global emissions below the IPCC low-emission scenario (IS92c) and warming probably below 1°C.

High Efficiency is Solution

The official 30% CO2-reduction scenario is based on the assumption that 20% increase in energy efficiency can be achieved by 2030 for all countries, except for the industrial sectors that have higher estimates (30% reductions in the West, 50% in the East) and for electricity consumption in households, where no efficiency gain is foreseen. The last is due to an expected increase in electrical appliances, eating up the efficiency gains. Even for Western Europe, these assumptions are very conservative for the long time period between now and 2030. For Eastern Europe, it is generally agreed that the efficiency potentials are far higher. A rough estimate shows that a 40% increase in energy efficiency, instead of 20%, will yield about a 50% CO2 emission reduction rather than 30%. In the above scenario, the price for the energy efficiency measures is estimated to be about 2/3 of the cost of providing the energy. Unfortunately, the official scenario does not include detailed studies of the energy consuming sectors. Based on other studies, it is quite realistic to assume that an energy efficiency gain of more than 40% can be achieved by 2030 for less than 2/3 of the energy supply costs (2). With this assumption, development with a CO2 reduction of 50% or more is possible at a price lower than that of the 30% CO2 reduction described above, and still includes phase-out of nuclear power.

(2) A good description of energy efficiency potentials can be found in the book of "Factor Four, Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource use" Earthscan Publications, London 1997.

This would be a real sustainable development vision.

Now, the officials of the ten Baltic Sea countries are discussing the recommendation to the prime ministers who will meet in June. From NGOs, we will propose that the real sustainable development vision with at least 50% CO2 reduction be adopted by the prime ministers as their long-term vision.


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