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Implementing the Paris Climate Agreement: an opportunity to fuel the world with energy savings and renewables

  • Posted on: 2 January 2017
  • By: Yamina SAHEB

The 1st industrial revolution was fuelled with coal, the 2nd with mainly oil, gas and to some extent nuclear energy while the 3rd one experienced a shy introduction of renewables in the energy mix. The 4th industrial revolution might well be fuelled first with energy savings if countries from all over the world implement the Paris Climate Agreement.

The concept of considering energy savings as fuel, born in the United States, is being now implemented in the European Union. In fact, prior to the Paris Climate Agreement, the Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy introduced the concept of "Efficiency First Principle" which calls for the necessity "to fundamentally rethink energy efficiency and treat it as an energy source in its own right, representing the value of energy saved".

The modern vision of the energy mix resulting from the implementation of "Efficiency First Principle" is a game changer for the global energy system. It lowers the importance of fossil fuels in the global energy mix and value the combined effect of the additional energy savings and renewables that would result from the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2016 Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP) model of the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirms (see figure) that energy savings could be the first fuel of the world by 2040 if the 2 degrees scenario is to be met. Moreover, based on the IEA projections of the global energy mix, the sum of energy savings and renewables would, in this case, overtake, by 2040, the sum of all fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) and nuclear energy combined as shown in the figure on the right.

The transformation of the global energy mix from a mix driven by fossil fuels and nuclear energy to a mix based on energy savings and renewable energies will only take place if there is a political will to design and effectively implement GHG emissions pathways "consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C" as stated in the Paris Climate Agreement.

COP 21 was an important step towards the translation of the "Efficiency First Principle" into a global climate goal. COP22 was the place for the international debate on the design of investment policies which will ensure that energy savings can compete on equal terms with supply of fossil fuels and nuclear.

The follow-up discussions taking place in 2017 represent a unique opportunity to ensure the "Efficiency First Principle" is leading the transformation of our societies to low-carbon ones. Countries opting for the "Efficiency First Principle" in the design of their energy policies will reap tremendous benefits for their citizens and businesses.

Let's make sure world leaders are aware of the "Efficiency First Principle"!

This column was published for the first time on November 8th, 2016 on