The climate gains of the pandemic are already largely passé. The “tened lead of fossil fuels” keeps the world warming at a dangerously fast pace. This is what the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns this Wednesday in its main annual vision for the future, the World Energy Outlook.
In recent years, the IEA, an organization in Paris that is affiliated with the rich countries federation OECD, has developed as an advocate of a global shift towards a sustainable energy system.
The agency is calling on the world this year to initiate far-reaching changes during the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow (late October-early November). Last year, the IEA also argued for a turnaround, but through billions in investments for a ‘green recovery’ from the corona crisis.
However, a global green investment wave failed to materialize. The corona crisis has had no structural effect on greenhouse gas emissions, the IEA report shows. The global CO2emissions have increased by 4 percent this year compared to 2020. This means that the climate gains brought about by the pandemic have already been undone by two-thirds.
More use of coal
The strong economic growth, especially in China, has led to an increase in the worldwide use of coal. In the Netherlands, too, coal-fired power stations are once again running at full capacity, while they have often been shut down in the past two years. The market conditions are contributing here, with record prices being paid for natural gas in Europe.
Although the world partly reverted to fossil fuels in 2021, the global energy system could change radically, according to the IEA. A “new energy economy is unfolding,” the agency said. Sustainable technology has quickly become cheaper. This applies not only to solar panels and wind turbines, but also to electric vehicles.
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However, investments in green energy are still at a much too low level to sufficiently boost sustainability. There is already a gap because investments in oil and gas extraction were scaled back during the corona crisis – when market prices were extremely low.
The IEA hopes that renewable energy can fill the gap. If not, it contributes to “uncertainty about the future.” Without explicitly mentioning the current high energy prices, the agency foresees that the energy market will be ‘volatile’ in the coming years.
According to the IEA, the world is heading for a temperature increase of 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2100. Now that the earth has warmed by 1.1 degrees, forest fires and floods are already leading to extreme situations. The annual CO2emissions in 2050 will still be about the same as they are now, if more action is not taken.
Major role for China
A major role is reserved for China, which of all countries has the has the highest greenhouse gas emissions (27 percent of global emissions in 2019). President Xi Jinping’s recent announcement that China will stop building coal plants abroad — about which much is still unclear — is an encouraging step, according to the IEA. That policy change “would” emit the same amount of CO2reduction as the EU policy to be climate neutral by 2050.
However, much more needs to be done worldwide to reduce global CO ., especially until 20302emissions to zero by 2050, so that strong warming is avoided. the CO2emissions should fall five times faster than currently planned, and investments in clean energy should triple. According to the agency, this is “less drastic than it seems” because 40 percent of the necessary investments already pay for themselves.
The other side of the coin is that most climate investments are not yet profitable. That shows how important subsidies, stronger CO2-pricing and fiscal measures (the abolition of ‘fossil subsidies’) are to support greening.