An international agency that tracks energy policy developments around the world warned Wednesday that national commitments to execute the Paris Agreement on climate change will fail to limit atmospheric warming to a level below 2 degrees Celsius, the agreement’s overall objective.
The International Energy Agency’s 2016 World Energy Report concludes instead that existing Nationally Determined Contributions, the formal term for promises to lower greenhouse gas emissions provided for in the Paris Agreement, would lead to a warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.
“[T]he goals of the Paris Agreement require not just a slowdown in growth, but an early peak and decline in emissions,” the agency said in a fact sheet that accompanied the report. “In our main scenario, the entire carbon budget for a 2°C future is used up by the early 2040s.”
The IEA further explained that a limitation of warming to 2 degrees Celsius is “tough,” but that “it can be achieved if policies to accelerate further low carbon technologies and energy efficiency are put in place across all sectors. It would require that carbon emissions peak in the next few years and that the global economy becomes carbon neutral by the end of the century.”
The rate of growth in greenhouse gas emissions will slow, falling from a mean of about 2.4 percent since 2000 to about 0.5 percent per year by 2040.
IEA found that a boom in renewable energy investment is underway. The report concluded that expansion of renewable energy infrastructure in 2015 exceeded that added for electricity generated from coal, oil, and natural gas combustion and nuclear energy during the year.
Wind and solar energy production will account for at least 37 percent of all electricity generated in 2040, the report said.
Meanwhile, development of coal and oil facilities is beginning to show signs of falling off.
While production of oil from sources in the Middle East reached its highest proportion of worldwide output of the fossil fuel in the past 40 years, the number of new oil projects approved by governments around the world has fallen to the lowest level since the 1950s. Meanwhile, demand for oil from the electric power industry and for operation of motor vehicles has begun to fall. Utilities used about 3 million barrels per day less in 2015 than in 2014, while motor vehicle consumption fell by about half a million barrels per day.
On the other hand, oil consumption by freight shippers, airlines, the maritime industry, and petrochemical plants rose last year. In the case of petrochemical plants, demand increased by about 5 million barrels per day, while airlines and freight shippers burned in excess of 3 million barrels per day more than they had in 2014. The maritime industry increased oil used by nearly 2 million barrels per da
None of those industries that experienced increases in oil consumption last year have readily available alternatives to the fossil fuel.
Coal, according to IEA, is on a marked downward trajectory. The report concluded that coal consumption is declining in China, the European Union, and the United States, though India and southeast Asian nations are increasing their reliance on the substance.
Worldwide, coal demand is expected to decline by more than two-thirds from its 1990 level before 2040.
Among fossil fuels, natural gas is the only energy source that is being used more. The report concluded that liquid natural gas is the primary driver of this trend and is the result of greater integration of the fuel into world markets.