Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future

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  • 5. The Case for Immediate Action

    Scientific evidence is overwhelming that current energy trends are unsustainable. Immediate action is required to effect change in the timeframe needed to address significant ecological, human health and development, and energy security needs. Aggressive changes in policy are thus needed to accelerate the deployment of superior technologies. With a combination of such policies at the local, national, and international level, it should be possible—both technically and economically—to elevate the living conditions of most of humanity, while simultaneously addressing the risks posed by climate change and other forms of energy-related environmental degradation and reducing the geopolitical tensions and economic vulnerabilities generated by existing patterns of dependence on predominantly fossil-fuel resources.

    This chapter presents nine major conclusions reached by the Study Panel, along with actionable recommendations. These conclusions and recommendations have been formulated within a holistic approach to the transition toward a sustainable energy future. This implies that not a single one of them can be successfully pursued without proper attention to the others. Prioritization of the recommendations is thus intrinsically difficult. Nonetheless, the Study Panel believes that, given the dire prospect of climate change, the following three recommendations should be acted upon without delay and simultaneously:

      Concerted efforts should be mounted to improve energy efficiency and reduce the carbon intensity of the world economy, including the worldwide introduction of price signals for carbon emissions, with consideration of different economic and energy systems in individual countries.
      Technologies should be developed and deployed for capturing and sequestering carbon from fossil fuels, particularly coal.
      Development and deployment of renewable energy technologies should be accelerated in an environmentally responsible way.

    Taking into account the three urgent recommendations above, another recommendation stands out by itself as a moral and social imperative and should be pursued with all means available:

      The poorest people on this planet should be supplied with basic, modern energy services.

    Achieving a sustainable energy future requires the participation of all. But there is a division of labor in implementing the various recommendations of this report. The Study Panel has identified the following principal ‘actors’ that must take responsibility for achieving results:

      Multi-national organizations (e.g., United Nations, World Bank, Regional Development Banks, etc.)
      Governments (national, regional, and local)
      Science and technology (S&T) community (academia)
      Private sector (businesses, industry, foundations)
      Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
      General public

    Conclusions, recommendations, actions

    Based on the key points developed in this report, the Study Panel offers these conclusions with recommendations and respective actions by the principal actors.