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Friday, May 24, 2024

High fossil fuel use putting UN climate targets out of reach: IEA

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By Nathalie ALONSO

Paris, France — The International Energy Agency warned Tuesday that energy policies must evolve if global warming is to be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, saying fossil fuel use is still “far too high”.

“As things stand, demand for fossil fuels is set to remain far too high to keep within reach the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees C,” or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the agency said.

“This risks not only worsening climate impacts after a year of record-breaking heat, but also undermining the security of the energy system, which was built for a cooler world with less extreme weather events,” the IEA said in its annual report.

“Bending the emissions curve onto a path consistent with 1.5 degrees Celsius remains possible but very difficult,” it said.

Without substantive policy changes worldwide, global average temperatures could rise by around 2.4 Celsius this century, it said.

The report comes just weeks from the COP28 summit beginning in November in Dubai, the latest of the global climate summits hosted by the United Nations since 1995 aimed at stabilising greenhouse-gas emissions and climate change.

‘Unstoppable’

The IEA did point to some positive developments including “the phenomenal rise of clean energy technologies” such as solar and wind power, electric cars and heat pumps.

It estimated there would be around 10 times as many electric cars on the roads as now, and that solar power overall would generate more electricity than the entire US power system does today.

The global share of renewable energies could rise to around 50 percent from 30 percent currently, it added.

It also noted that investments into new offshore wind projects are three times higher than those for new coal- and gas-fired power plants.

“However, even stronger measures would still be needed to keep alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the IEA said, just days after OPEC said it expected oil demand growth to continue until 2045.

For the IEA, a “combination of growing momentum behind clean energy technologies and structural economic shifts around the world” could bring peaks in global demand for coal, oil and natural gas by the end of this decade.

That would take fossil fuels’ share of the global energy supply from around 80 percent currently to 73 percent by 2030.

“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable. It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ -– and the sooner the better for all of us,” the agency’s executive director Fatih Birol said in the report.

He also criticised moves by some governments to expand development of oil, gas and coal projects in the pursuit of energy security, a key issue in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting impacts on supplies from Russia, a major producer.

“Taking into account the ongoing strains and volatility in traditional energy markets today, claims that oil and gas represent safe or secure choices for the world’s energy and climate future look weaker than ever,” Birol said.

The report proposed a tripling of global renewable capacity, and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements.

Birol also said international cooperation was paramount to accelerate clean energy transitions and help developing nations meet rising energy demand at a time of rising geopolitical tensions.

“Governments, companies and investors need to get behind clean energy transitions rather than hindering them,” he said.

The IEA said investment in clean energy had jumped 40 percent since 2020 but “it can and should go faster still for us to meet our shared energy and climate goals”.

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