Originated in Austria, the “World Energy Efficiency Day” took place yesterday, on March 6th. All over the world similar events are held to raise awareness to the cause of energy efficiency.

Each year in March Austria hosts the “World Sustainable Energy Days”. It is an annual sustainability conference that has taken place since 1992 in parallel to the “Energiesparmesse” (“Energy Savings Trade Fair”). These events draw attention to the latest technology trends, European sustainable strategies, and to energy efficiency in general. Experts and decision-makers from all over the world travel to Austria to attend the events to contribute to the meetings as well as learn more about energy savings and efficiency.

Locally, in Vigo (Galicia), the Galician Energy Institute (INEGA) hosted yesterday a roundtable on the subject of “Transitioning towards a low-emission mobility”, with public authorities and executives from the companies Reganosa, Castrosúa and PSA Group.

Due to the occasion, we also briefly highlight why energy efficiency is so important. The quickest way to do so is to take a closer look at the climate scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations (UN) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), and the World Energy Outlook of the International Energy Agency. Both institutions clearly indicate that global CO2 emissions are still above the pathway that would limit the global average temperature rise until 2100 to the pivotal 2ºC threshold.

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What does that have to do with energy efficiency? Well, the link is made by our choices of energy sources. As long as we rely on fossil energy sources, all energy consumption will automatically translate into harmful emissions. Therefore, the IPCC and IEA scenarios recommend a mix of measures in which a reduction of fossil energy sources (for example renewables) and energy efficiency play vital roles. In order to preserve the ecosystems of our planet we have to use our energy more efficiently – this means that we have to produce the same economic output (or more) by using less energy.

Some people often argue that the goal to limit the temperature rise to 2º C until 2100 is to abstract of a goal. The criticism is that it is a concept that people concerned with local needs and interests cannot relate to. We must understand, however, that the 2ºC temperature rise is just a placeholder for a number of undesirable changes that will impact all of us very directly and concretely. A very illustrative example for Galicia is the impact on water temperature and water acidity. CO2 emissions not only end up in the atmosphere but also in the seas, affecting our ocean´s acidity. In the same way, a temperature rise not only affects the air temperature, but also the temperature of the oceans. Here in Galicia we are experts in fishing and the maritime ecosystems. We understand that sea temperature and acidity are key determinants for the availability of fish resources, and our economy depends heavily of the fishing industry. The graphs below from the latest IPCC report illustrate the effect of climate change on our oceans and the availability of fish resources.

Riesgos del cambio climático para los caladeros. IPCC, 2014.
Riesgos del cambio climático para los caladeros. IPCC, 2014.

This is certainly alarming, and we need to understand that the general concept of climate change represents uncountable small and locally visible effects that we would rather avoid.

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