"Are current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to 2°C above its pre-industrial levels? Or is there a gap between ambition and reality?" Those are the questions that scientists and experts convened from all over the world by UNEP have helped answer each year since 2010. The short answer is that there is a gap, and it is quite significant. The latest UNEP gap assessment in 2014 estimated the gap between 8 to 12 GtCO2e by 2020. The analysis furthermore shows that if the gap is not closed or reduced significantly, the new global climate agreement intended to enter into force in 2020 cannot keep us on a maximum 2°C path. The conclusion is that countries urgently need to step up their action in areas where significant emission reductions can be achieved quickly.
Energy efficiency is the area where most emission reductions can be achieved in the short term. Energy efficiency is therefore critical to combatting climate change. Energy efficient technologies, such as LED lamps for instance, use less energy while providing the same or better service, thereby substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions when they are deployed in large numbers. The latest UNEP gap report identified energy efficiency as one of the four most promising areas of climate action, and the International Energy Agency (2013), analyzing these same four key areas singled out energy efficiency as the area with the largest potential. Energy efficiency also provides other benefits such as sustainable economic development, green job creation, reduction of pollution, improvement of human health, and alleviation of poverty through rendering energy services more affordable.
According to IEA (Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency, 2013), the global economy could increase by $18 trillion by 2035 if we adopted energy efficiency as the "first choice" for new energy supplies. If this was the case, we would also go a long way in achieving the emission reductions required to limit global warming to 2°C.
UNEP has a wide portfolio of energy efficiency activities, focusing in particular on the transport, building, lighting, district energy and appliances sectors. UNEP also integrates energy efficiency into sustainable production and consumption. Together with its partners, UNEP contributes to strengthening the energy efficiency business case in developing countries and emerging economies, enabling them to reap economic, environmental and poverty alleviation benefits.
UNEP contributes to the energy efficiency goal of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) through SE4ALL’s Global Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform. The Platform was launched at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit 2014 to coordinate global action on energy efficiency. It aims to contribute decisively to the SE4ALL energy efficiency goal of doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. The Accelerator Platform brings together countries, cities, private companies, international organizations and financial institutions to accelerate improvements in energy efficiency.
UNEP co-leads four of SE4All’s Energy Efficiency Accelerators through its projects on efficient lighting, appliances and equipment, transport, and district energy.