26 October 2010

Maybe We Don't Have the Technology

[UPDATE: Thoughtful perspectives on India, energy and carbon at the blogs of Bryan Walsh and Michael Levi.]

In 2007, the IPCC concluded, implausibly, that the world presently has, or soon will have, technologies needed to achieve aggressive emissions reduction targets.  This conclusion was often repeated by its chairman Rajendra Pachauri, such as in this 2008 interview with the IAEA (pdf):
We have established very clearly that all the technologies that are required for stringent mitigation action are either available today or due to be commercialised very soon.
 In a news report just out from Greenwire, Pachauri has a very different message:
Pachauri also predicted that India could commit to carbon emissions cuts of its own "maybe 10 years from now," once the technology to effect such change becomes more widely available.
What that technology is and the mechanisms for making it widely available are not discussed, but the fact that Pachauri admits that it is not presently available and won't very soon be marks a stark change in orientation.  I argue in The Climate Fix that no one knows how fast large economies can decarbonize, so Pachauri's guess of 10 years is just that.  The question that inevitably follows is, what policies are going to be adopted that help to motivate and direct innovation in energy technology?  India, it appears, has some answers.