Energy transition is 'too slow', warns International Energy Agency

The International Energy Agency (IEA) considered this Wednesday that the world will suffer from global warming, but also from “turbulence” in energy supply, if it does not invest more quickly in clean energy.

In the annual report, published two weeks before the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November in Glasgow, Scotland, the agency issued “serious warnings about where the world is heading”.

Pointing that a “new economy” is emerging in the energy market, the agency lamented that progress is being thwarted by “the ‘status quo’ and fossil fuels’ resistance”, with oil, gas and coal still accounting for 80% of the total consumption of energy and to be responsible for three quarters of climate change.

Currently, governments’ climate commitments, if met, will only achieve 20% of the greenhouse gas emission reductions needed to keep global warming under control by 2030.

“Investments in decarbonized energy projects will have to triple in the next 10 years to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050”, pointed out the director of the IEA, Fatih Birol.

“If we manage to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, 2.2 million premature deaths from air pollution could be avoided by 2030, 40% less than today. In other scenarios, they will increase”, the document warns.

The IEA, which is part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), presented three scenarios for the future: that of current emission reduction policies effectively implemented by governments; the reduction commitments assumed; and what allows achieving carbon neutrality in 2050, already made public by the IEA in May.

In the first scenario – the most pessimistic – global temperature will increase by 2.6 degrees Celsius in 2100 compared to the pre-industrial era; in the second, 2.1 degrees; and only in the third will be limited to 1.5 degrees.

The third scenario, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, “will require great efforts, but offer considerable benefits, both for health and for economic development,” the IEA said.

The agency believes that an increase in investment of about $4 billion a year by 2030 in clean energy projects and infrastructure is needed to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

The additional funding needed for that goal “is less onerous than it looks,” the agency added. According to the IEA, 40% of emission reductions “pay for themselves”, through energy efficiency, the fight against methane leakage or solar or wind farms.

The IEA also pointed out that the current investment deficit affects not only the climate, but also prices and supply, ensuring “turbulence” such as the world is currently experiencing, with tensions over fossil fuels.

In recent years, the depreciation of oil and gas prices has limited investment in the sector, but the transition to clean energy is too slow to meet demand, considered the IEA.

“There is a risk of growing turmoil in global energy markets,” said Birol. “We are not investing enough to meet future needs, and these uncertainties are preparing us for a volatile period,” he said.

“The way to respond is clear: invest quickly and massively in clean energy” to meet both short-term and long-term needs, he added.

Otherwise, “the risk of destabilizing volatility will tend to increase”, reads the report, which stresses the importance of a transition “accessible to all citizens”.

“A new energy economy is emerging, with the potential to create millions of jobs,” said Fatih Birol, who called on leaders attending COP26 to “do their part, making the 2020s the decade of massive deployment of decarbonised energy “.

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