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'Not nearly enough.' IEA says fossil fuel demand will peak soon but urges faster action

London CNN  — 

Global demand for oil, natural gas and coal is likely to peak by 2030 — an “encouraging” development but “not nearly enough” to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.

Planet-heating pollution from the energy sector is also set to peak this decade, the IEA said in an update to its landmark “Net Zero Roadmap” report.

Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, told reporters Tuesday that the “path to the 1.5 degrees target is narrowing” but there were “legitimate reasons to be hopeful.”

“Mainly, we are seeing that a new clean energy economy is emerging around the world,” he said.

Scientists consider warming of 1.5 degrees a threshold beyond which extreme heat, floods, droughts, wildfires, and food and water shortages will have a catastrophic impact. This year’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere was the world’s hottest on record, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Scientists also say that to stay in line with the 1.5 degree cap, global greenhouse gas emissions must go down to zero by 2050 on a net basis, taking account of all the emissions produced and removed from the atmosphere.

Since the original publication of the “Net Zero Roadmap” report in 2021, the world has seen “record growth” in solar power capacity, as well as bumper sales of electric vehicles, the IEA wrote.

In the past two years, “solar became the king of electricity markets,” Birol said. “The old king — coal — is over, and now solar is the new king… the cost is coming down.”

Two years ago, he added, one in every 25 new cars sold around the world was electric. This year, that share has increased to one in every five.

And more than 80% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 can be achieved through expanding renewable energy sources, increasing electrification, improving energy efficiency and cutting methane emissions, according to the IEA.

Still, limiting global warming is a “herculean task,” Birol said, noting that achieving the 1.5 degree target would require a 25% plunge in demand for fossil fuels by 2030 compared with current levels.

The IEA calculates that investments in clean energy worldwide will need to more than double from the $1.8 trillion projected for this year to $4.5 trillion every year by the early 2030s. Staying on track for 1.5 degrees also means that almost all countries must move forward their target dates for achieving net-zero carbon emissions, it wrote Tuesday.

Meanwhile, carbon capture, utilization and storage — a set of technologies that prevents carbon going into the atmosphere at the source of the pollution — as well as hydrogen-based energy and biofuels require “rapid progress” by 2030.

The world’s leaders are due to gather in Dubai for the United Nations’ COP28 climate summit in late November to assess the global progress toward limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

In its 2021 report, the IEA said that, to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, investment in new oil and gas projects must stop immediately, and no new coal-fired plants should be approved.

But some of the world’s fossil fuel producers have ignored that call. In July, the UK government announced plans to allow a big expansion of drilling for oil and gas in the North Sea.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said at the time that he hoped the plans would provide Britain with domestically sourced energy while the country transitioned to a net-zero economy by 2050.

In September, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — a group that includes the world’s largest crude oil exporter Saudi Arabia — said that halting investment in new oil and gas projects would set up the global energy system to fail “spectacularly.”

“It would lead to energy chaos on a potentially unprecedented scale, with dire consequences for economies and billions of people across the world,” Haitham Al Ghais, OPEC’s secretary-general, said in a statement.

Oil prices have surged in recent months following a decision by OPEC and its leading ally Russia to slash crude supplies in a bid to prop up prices.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, has gained 28% since a low in late June to trade near $93 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, has risen by a similar margin to $89 a barrel.