Despite more than $2 trillion in renewable-energy investments since 1990, global greenhouse-gas-reduction efforts have barely made a dent, mainly because coal remains the preferred choice for electricity generation, especially in the rapidly growing Asian economies, according to a report from the International Energy Agency. "The drive to clean up the world's energy system has stalled," said Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA. "We need a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies if we are to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet," she said.

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