‘All new coal power plants should be halted to achieve net-zero emissions’
Construction of all new coal-fired power plants will have to be halted as of this year and 40% of the existing global coal power fleet retired by 2030 if the world has to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees C, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said. The IEA’s first World Energy Outlook released on Wednesday includes a scenario for the global transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. To achieve the scenario, approval of new oil and gas fields, coal mines, or mine extensions will also have to be stopped. Additionally, no new LNG export projects are to be developed, said Oil Change International, an advocacy organisation on the impact of fossil fuels, in an analysis of the IEA report.
The report said the energy intensity of the global economy needs to decrease by 4% annually this decade. It added global clean energy investment needs to more than triple by 2030, with 85% of total energy investment directed towards clean technologies.
IEA said getting the world on track for 1.5 degrees C requires a surge in annual investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure to nearly $4 trillion by 2030. It added fossil fuel-related methane emissions need to be reduced by 75% by 2030. The report said the electricity sector needs to almost decarbonise by 2035 in developed nations and by 2040 in all countries. The sales of new internal combustion engine cars need to end by 2035 globally, it added.
The IEA has underlined four measures to help achieve the net-zero emissions scenario--doubling of solar PV and wind deployment relative to what countries have already announced; a major expansion of other low-emission fuels including the use of nuclear power where acceptable; a huge build-out of electricity infrastructure including from hydropower; a rapid phase-out of coal etc. It has called for decreasing the energy intensity of the global economy by more than 4% per year between 2020 and 2030 through energy efficiency measures. The IEA has sought a rapid reduction in methane emissions and clean energy innovation.
Most of the emission reduction for net-zero targets come from technologies that are at the demonstration or prototype stage now. These are important to address emissions from iron and steel, cement, and other energy-intensive industrial sectors – and also from long-distance transport. Deployment of hydrogen-based and other low-carbon fuels, as well as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage will be crucial, the IEA said.
This transition could lead to unstable energy markets. “The world is not investing enough to meet its future energy needs, and uncertainties over policies and demand trajectories create a strong risk of a volatile period ahead for energy markets. Transition-related spending is gradually picking up but remains far short of what is required to meet the rising demand for energy services in a sustainable way. The deficit is visible across all sectors and regions. At the same time, the amount being spent on oil and natural gas, dragged down by two price collapses in 2014-15 and in 2020, is geared towards a world of stagnant or even falling demand for these fuels,” the report said.
The report has come in the middle of an energy price crisis. The IAE explained its causes in a separate blog.
“Recent increases in global natural gas prices are the result of multiple factors, and it is inaccurate and misleading to lay the responsibility at the door of the clean energy transition,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “This increase has been driven by the surge in gas, coal, and carbon prices in Europe.” Birol said well-managed clean energy transitions are a solution to the issues in gas and electricity markets – not the cause of them.
The IEA has also flagged the large gap in what countries have committed to and the actions needed to achieve net-zero by 2050. It said a lot more needs to be done by governments to fully deliver on their current announced pledges. “Looking sector-by-sector at what measures governments have actually put in place, as well as specific policy initiatives that are under development is captured in IEA’s Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS). Under STEPS, global average temperatures would rise by about 2.6 degrees C compared to pre-industrial levels,” it said. “This despite countries accounting for between 60-70% of global CO2 emissions announcing net-zero emissions pledges.” It said if countries actually deliver on their current pledges captured in the Announced Pledges Scenario, they start to bend the global emissions curve down but that would only limit global temperature rise to 2.1-degree C.
The report said an equitable energy transition is a must for achieving net-zero emissions. While advanced economies reach net zero emissions before emerging markets and developing economies like India, the scenario also underlines full energy access and significant reductions in air pollution as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and ensures that energy affordability is maintained.