Report: Paris Agreement at risk without immediate action to phase-out fossil fuels
The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) has warned that achieving the goals outlined as part of the Paris Agreement will be unattainable unless there is a commencement of immediate efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions to net-zero by mid-century.
This is based on the ETC’s recent ‘Fossil Fuels in Transition’ report, emphasising that the use of coal, oil and gas must be reduced dramatically starting now.
The report underscores the need for stronger policies to accompany technological progress, reducing fossil fuel use technically and economically feasible.
It asserts that key technologies including renewables, batteries, electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps are advancing faster than anticipated, displacing fossil fuel demand in various regions.
The ETC anticipates a decrease in fossil fuel use in specific sectors, citing examples such as the expected rise in global passenger EV sales to 15 million (20% of the market) in 2023, with China approaching 40% of total passenger vehicle sales.
Despite these trends, the report emphasises that achieving the necessary reductions demands stronger policy interventions including measures such as carbon pricing, technology deployment support and bans on the sale of new fossil fuel assets.
Additionally, according to the report, 65% of all oil and gas reserves and 90% of all coal reserves must remain untouched. Any national strategy assuming full exploitation of fossil fuel reserves is deemed incompatible with climate goals.
The Commission is advocating for global consensus during COP28 to swiftly reduce both the demand for and supply of all fossil fuels.
ETC’s chair Adair Turner said: “Any serious strategy to address the challenge of climate change must include commitments to run down the use and supply of fossil fuels.
“Dramatic cuts in Scope 1 and 2 emissions are of course vitally important but if that is all that is agreed at COP 28, it will be far short of what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5C or even to 1.7C.”
On justifying fossil fuel production with CCUS
Carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) are recognised as significant tools, particularly in sectors lacking alternative solutions, such as cement production. Nevertheless, the report highlights that total CCUS volumes in 2050 will be limited to around 4 gigatons (Gt) per annum.
According to the report, in order to meet the 1.5C target, dramatic reductions in fossil fuel use must be coupled with approximately 150 Gt of additional cumulative carbon dioxide removals.
However, the report stresses that these removals must be in addition to, not instead of, reductions in fossil fuel demand.
The report also challenges the notion of using CCUS and removals to justify business as usual in fossil fuel production. It warns against assuming significantly higher CCUS and removals, asserting that scenarios justifying continued fossil fuel production are incompatible with climate objectives.
Call for an accelerated action
The report concludes that for the world to adhere to the COP21 targets, investment in fossil fuel supply must dramatically decline, falling by approximately 30-35% by 2030 and 45-65% by 2040.
The recommendations provided in the report include the urgent need for global commitment, pushing for a swift reduction in fossil fuel use and ensuring any remaining usage by mid-century is offset by carbon capture and removal methods.
The ETC is urging the Governments to implement policies aligning with the report’s scenarios, rejecting the exploitation of national fossil fuel reserves, limiting coal mining expansions and restraining new oil and gas supply development to minimal levels.
The commission is calling on fossil fuel companies to commit to achieving net-zero emissions across all scopes by mid-century, gradually phasing out fossil fuel use, with a substantial part of this reduction stemming from decrease in fossil fuel production.
Lastly, financial institutions are urged to halt financing for coal projects and tightly regulate short-term oil and gas development funding. The financial players are also encouraged to align their financed emissions reduction with the pace necessary to limit global warming to 1.5C.
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