Governments are falling badly behind on low-carbon energy, putting carbon reduction targets out of reach and pushing the world to the brink of catastrophic climate change, the world's leading independent energy authority has warned.

The stark judgment was given at a key meeting of energy ministers from the world's biggest economies and emitters that is taking place in London — a meeting already overshadowed by the British Prime Minister David Cameron's last-minute withdrawal from a keynote speech planned for today.

“The world's energy system is being pushed to breaking point,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), has said in the Guardian. “Our addiction to fossil fuels grows stronger each year. Many clean energy technologies are available but not deployed quickly enough to avert potentially disastrous consequences.” On current form, she warns, the world is on track for warming of 6°C by the end of the century — a level that would create catastrophe, wiping out agriculture in many areas and rendering swathes of the globe uninhabitable, as well as raising sea levels and causing mass migration.Cameron has caused controversy because the “keynote” speech planned at the Third Clean Energy Ministerial, held at Lancaster House, London has been scaled back to only a few introductory remarks. “His decision not to deliver it is a massive failure of leadership,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, the group that took Cameron on his famous “husky-hugging” trip to the Arctic in 2006. In its report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, the IEA ranked progress on 11 key low-carbon indicators, including renewables, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage. It found the world was on track to meet just one of these targets.

To meet the carbon cuts scientists calculate are needed by 2020, the IEA says the world needs to generate 28 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources and 47 per cent by 2035. Yet renewables now make up just 16 per cent of global electricity supply. On carbon capture and storage, the picture is worse: the world needs nearly 40 power stations to be fitted with the technology within eight years, and so far none at all have been built.

Plans for new nuclear plants have been affected by last year's nuclear accident at Fukushima, Japan, and expectations for atomic energy capacity in 2025 have been scaled back by 15 per cent.

The IEA said, however, “mature” renewable technologies, such as onshore wind, hydro-electricity and solar panels, were broadly on track. But businesses and governments were failing to invest in energy efficiency. Progress was slow on electric vehicles, while of the coal-fired power stations being built about half still used old technology. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

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