IEA: Energy emissions could peak by 2020 with right plan

Global emissions from energy use could peak within the next five years if Governments spend an extra $130bn on renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and ban new coal-fired power plants.

That’s the conclusion of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA), World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Climate Change, released on Monday.

The IEA says the money for these policies can come from eliminating fossil fuel subsidies by 2030.

If such a plan was agreed upon at the UN conference in Paris, countries could peak energy-related emissions by 2020 with no additional expenditure, says the IEA.

“The cost and difficulty of mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions increases every year,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

“It is clear that the energy sector must play a critical role if efforts to reduce emissions are to succeed. While we see growing consensus among countries that it is time to act, we must ensure that the steps taken are adequate and that the commitments made are kept.”


Energy production and use account for two thirds of the world’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, but, the IEA report suggested that a low-carbon transition is already in motion, and an ambitious agreement in Paris – like the one they suggest – would be a tipping point.

The report reads: “There are signs that growth in the global economy and energy-related emissions may be starting to decouple.”

The global economy grew by around 3% in 2014 but energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions stayed flat, the first time in at least 40 years that such an outcome has occurred outside economic crisis.

Renewables accounted for nearly half of all new power generation capacity in 2014, with investment remaining strong (at $270 billion) and costs continuing to fall.

The energy intensity of the global economy also dropped by 2.3% in 2014, more than double the average rate of fall over the last decade, a result stemming from improved energy efficiency and structural changes in some economies, such as China.


However, despite the IEA’s optimism, progress towards a global deal on climate change stalled in Bonn last week.

The efforts to slim down a text of around 90 pages into a usable document for Paris reportedly “failed to make significant progress”.

WWF campaigners expressed frustration at the “growing gap between what is needed and what is being promised on finance and emissions”.


Responding to the IEA research, Catherine Mitchell, a professor of energy policy at Exeter University said: “This report confirms that two absolute no-brainers are cutting energy waste and closing coal fired power stations – each nation should be doing those two things as soon as it can.

 “The IEA also says that although currently countries are not on target to meet the globally agreed 2 Celsius warming target, the target can be achieved if countries follow the simple plan that it has put forward.

 “It’s also significant in that it confirms the IEA’s earlier conclusion that the decoupling of greenhouse gas emissions from global economic growth is starting to become evident, as countries adopt progressively greener and more efficient economies.”

Brad Allen

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