The planet’s progress towards 100% energy generation from renewable or low carbon sources is way off the pace needed to meet the climate goals of the 2015 Paris accords, the International Energy Agency reports today.

Global economic rebounds after Covid-19 have this year seen the second-largest ever rise in carbon emissions, the UN body’s annual World Energy Outlook calculates. A post-lockdown surge in coal burning is the principal cause.

This summer the IEA had predicted governments would fail to honour promises to permit green means alone to secure economic recovery after lockdown. Today’s report deepens the gloom, as the agency confirms 2023 is likely to see record carbon emissions, with rises continuing still higher thereafter.

The ‘Announced Pledges’ section of today’s report calculates the likely global temperature rise by 2100, on the basis of governments’ declared cash commitments already delivered towards carbon mitigation.   

It is 2.1°C, beyond even the more dangerous 2.0 limit envisaged at Paris.

 The ‘Stated Polices’ section is higher yet, at 2.6°C. By ‘Stated Polices’, the report specifies commitments already enacted by governments, as well as supporting initiatives in development. 

Closing the gap requires $4 trillion in clean tech investment by mid-century, almost three quarters in developing nations, the report concludes.

IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol says renewables’ accelerating deployment worldwide is colliding with what he calls “the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems”.

“Today’s climate pledges would result in only 20% of the emissions reductions by 2030 that are necessary to put the world on a path towards net zero by 2050,” Dr Birol writes.

Away from the IEA’s reporting and predictions, climate technologists and economists are plotting imagined routes to entirely carbon-free global consumption of energy, including in electricity.  One is Stanford University’s Prof Mark Jacobson.  Critiqued here, Jacobson’s 2018 work posited scenarios on how over 120 individual nations could achieve energy resilience based solely on wind, hydro and solar, eschewing even biomass.  

Campaigners for renewables include more than 2,000 academics and over 100 Nobel laureates who have signed the Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty, modelled last year on controls on nuclear weapons developed from the 1960s onwards.  It claims over 400 civil society groups world wide as members. 

Read the IEA World Energy Outlook here.


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