The World Energy Council (WEC) said policy uncertainty, and the lack of clear long-term goals on the climate, had hampered the industry’s ability to invest in low-carbon growth.

The organisation, representing major energy companies around the world, including those dependent on fossil fuels, said that $48tn (£31tn) to $53tn of investment would be needed, and could be delivered, if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

The Council called for clear emissions targets to be set at Paris, and for a “flexible approach” to the needs of different countries.

Christoph Frei, secretary general of the WEC, said: “It is increasingly clear that traditional mechanisms, known technology, policy and rates of innovation will not deliver the change needed to balance energy security concerns within countries and meet global climate targets. New and ambitious thinking is needed.

“This new thinking will require stable economic and policy platforms in order to boost investment and establish clear, consistent goals that guide the development of new energy infrastructure that will support the lower carbon transition.”

The world already has clear targets on greenhouse gas emissions, set out by developed and major developing country governments in Copenhagen in 2009, and ratified the next year under the UN’s Cancun Agreements. Those targets, which run until 2020, are all still valid and have not been repealed.

At Paris, governments are supposed to forge a new agreement with commitments from countries that will run beyond 2020, in some cases to 2025 and in others to 2030 and beyond. Several, including those from the US and the EU, have already been submitted to the UN, while China has provided a strong indication of its targets. More than 30 countries have submitted their targets so far.

While many energy companies have publicly called for stronger policy on emissions, the Guardian has uncovered evidence of some fossil fuel companies lobbying against such measures.

The WEC, accredited to the UN and due to be represented at the Paris talks, is made up of more than 3,000 member organisations, including private sector companies, state-backed companies and governments.

In its report published on Wednesday, it also called for: the removal of trade barriers, such as tariffs, placed on the transfer of environmental goods and services across borders; governments to set a carbon price; provide better policy signals, and invest public money in projects that can gain private capital; greater energy efficiency; and collaboration between the public and private sectors on new technology.

Joan MacNaughton, chair of the group that drew up the WEC report, said: “Our findings show that there is a real thirst for vigorous implementation of strong commitments – the focus now needs to move from negotiation to action.”

She said that without a strong commitment from governments, it would “become increasingly difficult to deliver across the three goals of energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. As the energy industry is telling us, it is now time to get something done.”

The WEC’s reports have in the past been directed at advising governments and the private sector, and it came up with the idea of an energy “trilemma” facing the world, meaning the triple need to tackle climate change, security of energy supply, and making energy accessible and affordable to all.

Fiona Harvey

This article first appeared in the Guardian

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