World’s first comprehensive global energy study
30 January 2013
It is still possible to solve the world’s energy problems while saving the climate, improving human health and improving progress in developing countries, according to a new study. However, it will require coordinated and well-planned strategies that link all these areas.
The Global Energy Assessment (GEA) is the first major study of the world energy situation that also takes into account all the other sectors that are linked to energy: agriculture and forestry, buildings, technology, health, the environment, conflict risks, etc.
Over 300 researchers from around the world have taken part in the study. A number of them are from Lund University, and the report recently had its first Swedish presentation in Lund.
“We have carried out case studies of policies that have worked in the field of energy and policies that haven’t. This has enabled us to get rid of a lot of myths”, said Director of the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics Lena Neij at the seminar.
One such myth is that converting to a sustainable energy supply can go quickly, if enough money is spent. Another is that solutions to problems can be found if only governments invest more money in research.
“A transition does not happen quickly, it will take time. Politicians and economists have to be aware that it is a long-term commitment. Government support for research is of course important, but innovation in the field of energy has to happen outside academia as well”, said Lena Neij, who is one of the principal authors of the report.
The GEA report takes the form of a 5.5 kg, 1 800-page tome which is intended to serve as a reference work for specialists. It also has a summary aimed at politicians, development economists and civil servants working for government agencies and international organisations.
“The important thing now is spreading the word. All those of us who have participated have to raise the results of the study in debates, lectures to students, talks to the public, newspaper articles and seminars”, said former director of the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics Thomas B. Johansson.
Unlike other major energy overviews, the authors of the GEA have been able to remain independent, because the project has been backed by many different governments and organisations.
“Inquiries performed by individual governments or energy companies cannot be trusted. They have too strong a vested interest”, said author and former politician Anders Wijkman. Among other things, he referred to an American inquiry into energy security carried out in the Bush era:
“Its narrow focus has steered American energy policy towards shale gas. This has entailed a massive misevaluation of natural resources and unwise investment of public money, as well as major damage to the environment and the climate!”
Avoiding a narrow focus and including all the global challenges at once is the important factor, according to many of the speakers at the seminar. Energy issues cannot be addressed separately, because the most effective method in the field of energy may be harmful to the climate or water supply, for example.
“This creates a political problem, because politicians generally want to address issues one by one. However, conversion of the energy system is not an isolated issue”, emphasised Lars J. Nilsson from the Division of Environmental and Energy Systems Studies at Lund University.
Professor Thomas B. Johansson has coordinated the work on the GEA and sat on the GEA executive committee. Professor Lena Neij and senior lecturers Aleh Cherp and Luis Mundaca from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics have participated as authors, and Professor Lars J. Nilsson has acted as one of the study’s 200 reviewers.
Text: Ingela Björck
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