Saturday 3 December 2016

Climate pledges 'will not prevent dangerous warming'

Paul Melia Environment Editor

Published 17/11/2016 | 02:30

Dr Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency
Dr Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency

CURRENT pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous climate change will not be enough to keep warming below safe thresholds, the International Energy Agency has warned.

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Although the World Energy Outlook 2016 report predicted "broad transformations" in the global energy landscape out to 2040, the era of fossil fuels appears to be "far from over".

The outlook says that renewables and natural gas are the "big winners" in the race to meet rising energy demands out to 2040, but coal and oil will continue to play a part. Oil demand for passenger cars will reduce due to increased electrification of the fleet and use of biogas, but there will be greater oil price volatility over the coming years.

"We see clear winners for the next 25 years - natural gas but especially wind and solar - replacing the champion of the previous 25 years, coal," said Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. "But there is no single story about the future of global energy. In practice, government policies will determine where we go from here."

The report includes a detailed analysis of the pledges to reduce emissions, but warns if current proposals from parties to the Paris Climate Agreement, who are currently meeting at COP 22 in Marrakech, are upheld, warming will increase by 2.7C by 2100. Scientists have warned that 2C of warming is a tipping point. If warming goes beyond this, changes to the climate system could be irreversible. The current pledges will only "slow down" projected increases in emissions from an average of 650 million tonnes a year to 150 million tonnes.

"While this is a significant achievement, it is far from enough to avoid the worst impact of climate change as it would only limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2.7C by 2100," the IEA said.

Emissions must peak in the next few years, and there needs to be 700 million electric cars by 2040 and increased use of renewables to the industrial, building and transport sectors.

Use of natural gas, which is less-polluting, will expand while oil and coal will play a reduced role. The IEA warned that record falls in investment levels in oil and gas could lead to a "significant risk" of a shortfall, and that we were entering a period of "greater oil price volatility".

Increased gas supply from the US, Australia and elsewhere will "trigger" a shift to a more competitive market.

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