Strengthen climate policies now or risk catastrophe, warns energy agency

The world's existing climate policies will not be enough to end the upward march of record energy emissions rising beyond 2040 without a "grand coalition" of governments and investors, according to the global energy watchdog.


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Strengthen climate policies now or risk catastrophe, warns energy agency

The IEA cited the growth of coal in nations such as China as a key concern. Image: Kleineolive/ CC-BY-3.0 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its World Energy Outlook that carbon emissions from the global energy industry reached a new record in 2018 despite progress in renewable energy in recent years.

The IEA expects the growth of renewables to accelerate over the coming decades, but warned it would not be enough to put a ceiling on the energy sector’s emissions before 2040.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said there was a “deep disparity” between the aim to tackle the climate crisis by curbing carbon emissions and the existing policies which had allowed a “relentless upward march” for emissions.

The IEA’s latest figures estimate that carbon emissions are on track to keep rising by 100m tonnes a year for at least another 20 years under existing policy plans.

This rate would be two-thirds slower than the emissions hikes recorded in previous decades but would fall very far short of what is needed to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement.

“We will need to see great political will around the world,” Birol said. “This is why I believe that the world needs to build a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is genuinely committed to tackling climate change.”

The IEA said it presented the modelling based on stated policies to “hold up a mirror” to global governments to show the consequences of their policies.

“We think that governments’ current plans could bring us to catastrophic implications for the climate of this planet. In order to be in line with the Paris targets there is a need for huge efforts in pushing energy efficiency, renewable energy and all other clean energy technologies,” Birol added.

The record carbon emissions for 2018 are only marginally below the levels forecast by the IEA almost 10 years ago despite the quicker than expected rollout of wind and solar power.

Birol said the “disappointing” efforts towards better energy efficiency and a boom in coal use in China had scuppered the momentum of clean-energy technologies.

Energy efficiency is one of the most important levers for policymakers to help reduce carbon emissions across the economy, according to the IEA’s report, yet efforts to cut energy waste have fallen to record lows even as the climate crisis has climbed the political agenda.

Under the IEA’s sustainable development model, global carbon emissions from the energy sector should peak immediately and fall to 10 gigatonnes (or 10bn tonnes) by 2050. This would require emissions in advanced economies to fall at an average of 5.6% every year until 2050, and by 3.2% in developing economies.

Jillian Ambrose 

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network 

© Faversham House Ltd 2022 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    That CO2 has a heating effect on the global atmosphere is undisputed. But the air contains, on average, one molecule of CO2 for every fifty molecules of water vapour, the predominant greenhouse gas. The of about equal greenhouse potency. The unresolved question is just how can CO2 have such dominating effect. The IPCC use one factor which is unprovenly high, and other theories cannot agree with the real world, a basic scientific requirement of any theory.

    There is plenty of assertion that CO2 is heading us for disaster, climate emergency in fact; the latest panic bellow. But they emanate from either ignorance or vested interest. The science is not yet resolved.

    But nobody listens

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