LASER TALK:  Citigroup’s study calls for a low-carbon economy


Citigroup is the third largest bank in the U.S.  They wrote a report entitled, “Energy Darwinism II[1]” about meeting world energy needs over the next 25 years.  They considered two scenarios to meet energy needs, which are expected to grow significantly by 2040[2].  One scenario is the “action scenario”, where energy needs are met, while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.  The “inaction scenario” is where energy needs are met with ‘business-as-usual’ methods, without trying to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.  Costs for each scenario were based on the capital expenditures and any fuel costs incurred to produce energy.  Renewable energy projects tended to cost more initially, but they provided savings later on.  They added up the costs and savings for producing energy with each scenario and found that the “action scenario” was less expensive – $190.2 Trillion vs. $192.0 Trillion[3]!  Then they looked at the costs of climate change impacts with each scenario, and while the “action scenario” had costs of $20 Trillion over the next 25 years, the “inaction scenario” had costs in the range of $42 to $72 Trillion[4] over the next 25 years.  The “action scenario” also has less air pollution, primarily as a result of burning less coal.

In summary, the Citigroup report argues that the “action scenario” costs less to produce energy than the “inaction scenario”, it avoids large liabilities implicit in the “inaction scenario”, and that cleaner air has to be better than pollution, leading one to ask, “Why would you not take action?”

Citigroup’s action scenario is very appealing.  It makes less use of coal, and more use of energy efficiency in heating, cooling and lighting.  It also makes more use of electric vehicles and greater fuel economy for combustion engines.  Citigroup suggests that a price on carbon will ensure that we take the “action scenario” to meet energy needs.  They calculated that a price of $50 per tonne by 2020 would make coal uncompetitive with other energy[5], and put us well on our way to pursuing the “action scenario”.

[1] Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions.  Energy Darwinism II. Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth.  August, 2015.

[2] Ibid. pg. 26

[3] Ibid. pg. 5

[4] Ibid. pg. 5

[5] Ibid. pg. 73


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