Tanaka: Fortunately not. The wrangling about commas left many negotiators suffering from nervous exhaustion.
SPIEGEL: But you presented the ministers and delegates with the findings of your energy experts. What would happen if Bali doesn't lead to an effective new climate protection accord by 2009?
Tanaka: If everything continues as it is, the human race will produce around 42 billion tonnes of CO2 per year in 2030 instead of today's 27 billion tonnes -- led by China with 11 billion tonnes. In the long term we would face a rise in temperatures by up to 6 degrees, with everything that entails. We call this scenario 'business as usual.' India and China in particular would build hundreds of inefficient coal-fired power stations which would remain in operation for 50 or 60 years. But that is a scenario that must not become reality.
SPIEGEL: What do you propose?
Tanaka: Initially, saving, saving, saving. If electrical appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners in China worked as efficiently as they do in Western countries today, the country could already do without two power stations of the size of the Three Gorges Dam. They could instead put the money into education and scientific research. There are also very effective measures that could be taken immediately. Just banning energy-wasting light bulbs could save around half a billon tons of CO2 per year worldwide.
Tanaka: No, but around a third of the necessary reductions can be achieved through efficiency. To stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an acceptable level, new low-emission power stations with huge capacities must come onto the power grid each year. And the old high-CO2 plants must be shut down an accelerated pace.
SPIEGEL: How can the turnaround be achieved?
Tanaka: To achieve a breakthrough for more efficient technologies, a price must be attached to carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. That can be done by imposing an energy tax, by trading in pollution rights or other measures, but without a price for emissions the new technologies won't prevail anywhere. The separation and storage of carbon dioxide from power stations will only become economical if the price for a ton of CO2 emissions goes in the direction of $50.
SPIEGEL: But even in rich countries like Germany, consumers are already saddled with high energy prices. How can further price increases be imposed politically?
SPIEGEL: It takes research to come up with more efficient energy technologies. Do scientists have enough money at their disposal?
Tanaka: Spending on energy research increased sharply after the oil crisis in the 1970s, to as much as $18 billion per year. But for almost 20 years governments and companies have only been investing a little over half that sum. The message hasn't sunk in yet that research will pay off -- particularly once oil prices have premanently risen to over $100 per barrel, as will happen by 2030.
SPIEGEL: In Bali, Germany put forward the idea of setting a CO2 output target of no more than two tonnes per human being by 2050. That's around twice as much as an inhabitant of India produces today on average, but for a German it would mean a reduction of 80 percent. What do you think of this concept?
Tanaka: It's dynamic and dramatic at the same time. It's not the job of the IEA to pass judgment on it, but personally I find it very convincing that every human being should have the same right to produce CO2 and that the upper limit should be defined by a consensus among climate researchers. I'm curious to see how Chancellor Angela Merkel will persuade the big CO2 polluters to back it.
SPIEGEL: What arguments could she use to persuade the Chinese, for example?
Tanaka: The Chinese have to realize that they can only grow if they adopt a different path from that of the US. Today's high level of pollution and low efficiency put tight limits on economic growth. But China is at the beginning of its development and therefore has a huge opportunity to develop a new, more sustainable way of life, a green growth model. Highly efficient electronics, clean transport, energy-efficient buildings, environmentally friendly megacities -- if the Chinese showed the Americans how to do that and became greener than the US, they would have an incredibly strong competitive advantage. Maybe Merkel's push will wake them up.
Interview conducted by Christian Schwägerl.
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