Renewables

IEA’s Birol: Climate change is indifferent to geopolitical rivalries

IEA Fatih Birol Climate change indifferent geopolitical rivalries

Photo: Fatih Birol / X

Published

September 27, 2023

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Published:

September 27, 2023

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The global pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 has narrowed but it is still achievable, the International Energy Agency said. Its Executive Director Fatih Birol warned that governments need to separate climate issues from geopolitics.

The case for climate action is stronger than ever, according to the IEA. In its updated Net Zero roadmap report, the organization pointed out that July was the hottest month ever on record – with August right behind it in the historical chart. And 2023 as a whole appears likely to become the hottest year, it said.

“Severe wildfires, droughts, floods and storms further underlined that the climate crisis is with us and that the costs are mounting. Politically, this year is an important test for the Paris Agreement,” Executive Director Fatih Birol said and stressed that the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 needs to set a course for all countries to step up.

The global pathway to eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions that the IEA mapped out in 2021 has narrowed, but is still achievable, he added.

Stronger cooperation, not fragmentation

“In an era of international tensions, governments need to separate climate from geopolitics. Meeting the shared goal of preventing global warming from going beyond critical thresholds requires stronger cooperation, not fragmentation. Climate change is indifferent to geopolitical rivalries and national boundaries – in its causes and its effects. What matters is emissions,” Birol stated.

The demand for fossil fuels is expected to peak by the end of the decade even without any new climate policies

Global carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector reached a new record high of 37 billion tonnes last year, 1% above their pre-pandemic level. But they are set to peak this decade, according to the study.

The IEA now projects that demand for coal and oil and even natural gas would peak by 2030 even without any new climate policies. This is encouraging, but not nearly enough for the goal to hold global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius until 2100, the authors said.

Ramping up renewables, improving energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions and increasing electrification with technologies available today deliver more than 80% of the emissions reduction by end-decade in the required scenario. Tripling global installed renewables capacity to 11 TW from 2022 to 2030 provides the largest emissions reduction.

Advanced economies have stricter trajectory to follow

By 2035, emissions need to decline by 80% in advanced economies and 60% elsewhere from the 2022 level, the International Energy Agency calculated. The projected warming of 2.4 degrees in 2100 under current policy settings, though still worryingly high, is one degree lower than the level expected before the Paris Agreement in 2015, the document reads.

IEA called for investments in the expansion, improvements and digitalization of electricity networks.

As for the other decarbonization pillars that it promotes, many are controversial with regard to environmental protection, effectiveness, financial viability and social impact. Namely, the energy transition implies “large quantities of low-emissions fuels, technologies to capture CO2 from smokestacks and the atmosphere, more nuclear power and large land areas for renewables,” the agency said.

Furthermore, it highlighted the critical minerals supply and demand gap, which can be bridged by a massive acceleration in mining project development. On the other hand, the authors also said more recycling and efficient design can help.

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