WASHINGTON — Governments must act now to ward off catastrophic climate change or face additional costs of $500 billion per year of delay, according to a report released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency.
"Saving the planet cannot wait," said the report by the 28-nation intergovernmental organization. "For every year that passes, the window for action on emissions . . . becomes narrower, and the costs of transforming the energy sector increase."
Officials from around the globe will meet Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen to try to formulate a new international agreement on reining in climate change. But some fear that summit participants will not reach an accord, pushing final action into next year.
"A slow start means a crash finish in the race to combat climate change," said Daniel Lashof, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council's Climate Center. "If Copenhagen results in an interim agreement and a schedule to complete the details later . . . the key will be to make sure it builds momentum and . . . that countries are continuing to make the investments needed."
The new treaty would succeed the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate-change agreement that expires in 2012. The United States did not participate.
An American failure to set binding emissions-reduction targets is a major controversy in the upcoming negotiations. Legislation setting those goals passed the House in June but is unlikely to clear the Senate before the summit.