Big Expectations From Energy-Efficiency and Renewables for Transition Towards SCP

Big Expectations From Energy-Efficiency and Renewables for Transition Towards SCP

New York, 29 April 2016 – As global leaders convened at the United Nations Head Quarters last week to sign on to the Paris climate agreement, they committed to a wide range of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Expectations are particularly high for two of the most widely recognized solutions to climate change: energy efficiency and renewable energy. But how much do we know about the environmental impacts of a large-deployment of these technologies — including the benefits or costs from a life-cycle perspective? By how much can the gains from energy efficient technologies be multiplied if GHG emissions from electricity production are also reduced? How can they fit other objectives of transitioning towards the Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) mode of development?

In a special issue, Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology aims to advance our understanding of life cycle environmental and natural resource implications of energy efficiency technologies. This special issue, “Environmental Impacts of Demand-Side Technologies and Strategies for Carbon Mitigation,” was prepared in collaboration with the International Resource Panel (IRP) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Several of the studies in this special issue will serve as technical appendices to a forthcoming report on life cycle implications of energy efficiency technologies by the IRP.

“If we are to meet climate change targets,” said Peter Crane, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, “we need to dramatically decarbonize electricity generation and use technologies for energy-efficiency on a very large scale. To do this effectively, we need to know not only the impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but also the environmental and natural resource implications of these changes.”

Previous research on individual technologies use different assumptions and data or focus on one region making comparison difficult. The contributions to this special issue seek to overcome this problem by employing comparable scenarios, assumptions and data and by covering all nine global regions as much as possible.

“Research confirms that energy efficiency in general is great, but not without ‘fine prints,’” said Sangwon Suh, an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and lead editor for the special issue. “Demand-side technologies reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as many other environmental impacts. However, the magnitudes of those improvements vary widely among the technologies and regions. In some cases, demand-side technologies too may increase resource consumption and even increase GHG emissions. It is crucial to understand where, when, and to which technology the investment should be placed to maximize the benefits.”

Contributions to this special issue cover a range of technologies — for both production and consumption of energy — including:

·       Lighting,
·       Building energy management,
·       Cogeneration,
·       Copper smelting,
·       Industrial symbiosis (by-product exchange and resource sharing), and
·       Transportation and logistics.

This special issue also addresses a number of key questions about the impact of energy efficiency technologies, such as the rebound effect.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology is a peer-reviewed, international bimonthly journal that examines the production, consumption and the environment impacts of goods and services from the perspective of the growing field of industrial ecology. It is owned by Yale University, headquartered at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and published by Wiley-Blackwell. Articles in the special issue will be freely downloadable on the Web for a limited time.

Discussions on acceleration of decoupling of economic growth and well-being from environmental stresses and resources depletion will take place at Gordon Research Conference on Industrial Ecology, which is supported by WRF. The conference takes place on 19-24 June 2016 at Stowe, Vermont. The contributing authors to the Journal of Industrial Ecology, including Professor Reid Lifset, Editor-in-Chief, will hold discussions at the conference.

To track progress of energy-efficiency and renewables in the context of both the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, effective monitoring systems using suitable indicators will need to be put in place. Statistics Sweden and the Ministry of Environment of Chile have recently released the report “Monitoring the Shift to Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns in the context of the SDGs” that proposes frameworks to strengthen capacity building related to data collection as a key lever for achieving effective and efficient monitoring of transition towards the Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).

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