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Will nations build on climate-change momentum of 2007?

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But Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), notes that since 1990, global emissions have grown 20 percent. By 2030, the agency expects energy-related carbon emissions to climb to 56 percent above 1990 levels.

Developing countries would account for 74 percent of that increase, with China and India accounting for nearly half of the total. Fossil fuels – oil, gas, and most of all, coal – are expected to fuel some 84 percent of the greater demand between 2005 and 2030. This business-as-usual scenario leads to carbon-dioxide emissions that would raise global average temperatures by nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

Mr. Tanaka says that to cap warming at about 3.6 degrees, countries would have to begin – today – aggressively using existing or nearly-ready technologies – the equivalent of bringing online each year some 30 nuclear reactors, at least two Three Gorges dams, 17,000 wind turbines, and 22 coal plants using carbon capture and storage (CCS). After 2013, every coal new plant would need to use CCS technology. A significant boost in energy efficiency is also needed. Rising demand for energy through 2030 will call for a $22 trillion investment, he says.

What's likely to happen on the international scene?

Two tracks bear watching.

Track 1: UN talks that received a green light and a negotiating framework at December's global climate talks in Indonesia. The aim is to have a new greenhouse-gas reduction agreement ready to take over after 2012. "It's not impossible, but it's very ambitious," says Manik Roy of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

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