Since the SAR several technologies have advanced more rapidly than was foreseen in the earlier analysis. Examples include the market introduction of efficient hybrid engine cars, rapid advancement of wind turbine design, demonstration of underground carbon dioxide storage, and the near elimination of N2O emissions from adipic acid production. Greater energy efficiency opportunities for buildings, industry, transportation, and energy supply are available, often at a lower cost than was expected. By the year 2010 most of the opportunities to reduce emissions will still come from energy efficiency gains in the end-use sectors, by switching to natural gas in the electric power sector, and by reducing the release of process GHGs from industry, e.g., N2O, perfluoromethane (CF4), and HFCs. By the year 2020, when a proportion of the existing power plants will have been replaced in developed countries and countries with economies in transition (EITs), and when many new plants will become operational in developing countries, the use of renewable sources of energy can begin contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions. In the longer term, nuclear energy technologies - with inherent passive characteristics meeting stringent safety, proliferation, and waste storage goals - along with physical carbon removal and storage from fossil fuels and biomass, followed by sequestration, could potentially become available options.
Running counter to the technological and economic potential for GHG emissions reduction are rapid economic development and accelerating change in some socio-economic and behavioural trends that are increasing total energy use, especially in developed countries and high-income groups in developing countries. Dwelling units and vehicles in many countries are growing in size, and the intensity of electrical appliance use is increasing. Use of electrical office equipment in commercial buildings is increasing. In developed countries, and especially the USA, sales of larger, heavier, and less efficient vehicles are also increasing. Continued reduction or stabilization in retail energy prices throughout large portions of the world reduces incentives for the efficient use of energy or the purchase of energy efficient technologies in all sectors. With a few important exceptions, countries have made little effort to revitalize policies or programmes to increase energy efficiency or promote renewable energy technologies. Also since the early 1990s, there has been a reduction in both public and private resources devoted to R&D (research and development) to develop and implement new technologies that will reduce GHG emissions.
In addition, and usually related to technological innovation options, there are important possibilities in the area of social innovation. In all regions, many options are available for lifestyle choices that may improve quality of life, while at the same time decreasing resource consumption and associated GHG emissions. Such choices are very much dependent on local and regional cultures and priorities. They are very closely related to technological changes, some of which can be associated with profound lifestyle changes, while others do not require such changes. While these options were hardly noted in the SAR, this report begins to address them.
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