New energy economy is emerging - IEA

A new energy economy is emerging around the world as solar, wind, electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies flourish, according to IEA’s new World Energy Outlook.

But as COP26 approaches, the report makes it clear that this clean energy progress is still far too slow to put global emissions into sustained decline towards net-zero, highlighting the need for ambition and action from governments in Glasgow.

The WEO-2021 shows that even as deployments of solar and wind go from strength to strength, the world’s consumption of coal is still growing strongly, pushing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions towards their second largest annual increase in history.

However, the report stresses that the extra investment to reach net-zero by 2050 is less burdensome than it might appear. More than 40 per cent of the required emissions reductions would come from measures that pay for themselves, such as improving efficiency, limiting gas leakage, or installing wind or solar in places where they are now the most competitive electricity generation technologies.

“The world’s hugely encouraging clean energy momentum is running up against the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director. “Governments need to resolve this at COP26 by giving a clear and unmistakeable signal that they are committed to rapidly scaling up the clean and resilient technologies of the future. The social and economic benefits of accelerating clean energy transitions are huge, and the costs of inaction are immense.”

As well as a ‘Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario’, the WEO-2021 explores two other scenarios to gain insights into how the global energy sector may develop over the next three decades – and what the implications would be. The ‘Stated Policies Scenario’ represents a path based on the energy and climate measures governments have actually put in place to date, as well as specific policy initiatives that are under development. In this scenario, almost all of the net growth in energy demand through 2050 is met by low emissions sources, but that leaves annual emissions still around today’s levels. As a result, global average temperatures are still rising when they hit 2.6 C above pre-industrial levels in 2100

The ‘Announced Pledges Scenario’ maps out a path in which the net-zero emissions pledges announced by governments so far are implemented in time and in full. In this scenario, demand for fossil fuels peaks by 2025, and global CO2 emissions fall by 40 per cent by 2050. All sectors see a decline, with the electricity sector delivering by far the largest. The global average temperature rise in 2100 is held to around 2.1 C.

The IEA report concludes that with emissions, climate disasters and energy market volatility all rising, governments need to send an unmistakeable signal of clean energy ambition and action at COP26 to accelerate the transition.

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