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August 28, 2009

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Big role urged for energy study in climate pact

RESEARCH into clean energy technology should get a leading role in new United Nations climate pact ahead of ever tougher curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study that's due to be released today.

"We need to start talking a lot more about the technological revolution," said Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" who commissioned the report to give alternative ideas for a new UN climate treaty.

The report estimated that investments of US$100 billion a year in research into new technologies - such as solar power, hydrogen, nuclear fusion or sucking carbon dioxide from the air - could avoid US$11 of damage from climate damage for every dollar spent.

Stressing deep cuts in carbon emissions before technologies were ready was a "doomed approach," according to the study led by Chris Green, a specialist in environmental economics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

The report said that a new UN climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December this year risked putting emphasis on "how much to do in the next period, rather than how to do it."

Talks on the UN climate pact often focus on deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations by 2020. They also cover new technologies and finance to help developing nations curb their rising emissions and adapt to changes.

The panel of scientists that advises the UN concluded in 2007 that cuts in emissions could be achieved by "technologies that are currently available and those that are expected to be commercialized in coming decades."

But Green said that far more research was needed to ensure new technologies emerged.

"The amount of carbon emission-free energy required to 'stabilize' climate is huge - at least 15 to 20 times more than current levels, almost all of which is supplied by nuclear and hydroelectric," he wrote.


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