The world is not on course to reduce the emission of planet-heating greenhouse gases to net zero by the year 2050, and with emission levels still on the rise, urgent action must be taken by governments around the world, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.
Less than three weeks away from the UN’s highly anticipated Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, the IEA has highlighted the scale of the challenge facing countries in the move away from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy sources.
Following a recession brought on by Covid-19, 2021 has seen a rebound in coal and oil consumption, the agency warned, which has resulted in the second-largest annual increase in carbon emissions on record.
The agency’s new world energy outlook report states that so far, global progress in clean energy remains far too slow to put emissions into sustained decline.
Despite highlighting significant gains in wind and solar power, as well as in electric vehicle technology, which the agency described as “hugely encouraging”, the overall downbeat assessment has led the IEA to call for “an unmistakable signal of ambition and action from governments in Glasgow”.
Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said the world was on course to miss key milestones by a wide margin, and warned that “the costs of inaction are immense”.
He said: “Today’s climate pledges would result in only 20 per cent of the emissions reductions by 2030 that are necessary to put the world on a path towards net zero by 2050.
“Reaching that path requires investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure to more than triple over the next decade.”
The agency called for major new investments to be made in renewables in order to “jolt the energy system onto a new set of rails”, particularly in emerging and developing economies.
These countries should be the focus of 70 per cent of additional funding to tackle the climate crisis, the IEA said, as funding there is scarce and borrowing remains up to seven times more expensive than in advanced economies.
The UN’s 26th climate “conference of the parties” or Cop26, runs between 1 and 12 November in Glasgow, with a key aim of setting targets for major global reductions in fossil fuel emissions.
The summit has been described as the “last chance saloon” for mitigating the worst impacts of human activity, with only a “narrow but achievable” pathway to keeping temperature rises below catastrophic levels.
The aims set out under the 2015 Paris climate agreement are to limit the rise of global temperatures to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees.
In order to achieve this, the UN’s scientific committee on climate change has said emissions must be cut to net zero – when greenhouse gas emissions are balanced out by their removal from the atmosphere – by 2050 at the latest.
Responding to the report, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, an analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: “By showing that current policies fall well short of getting global warming in check by 2030 and providing a clear checklist of commitments that the UK – as host of Cop26 – will need to secure to keep 1.5C of warming alive, the IEA are laying down a clear gauntlet for action on climate.
“Continuing global dependence on fossil fuels is exposing the UK and the rest of the world to ongoing energy price volatility, which could be avoided – along with destructive temperature rises – if bold decisions are taken over the next few weeks.
“The UK could continue to be in the vanguard here, by publishing the eagerly awaited Net Zero Strategy and filling gaps in policies in key areas, notably on home insulation to cut our heating bills and protect us from gas price spikes.”
Additional reporting by agencies
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