The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook not only envisages a future where coal, oil and gas continue to play leading roles in all of its scenarios, it also, at the same time, finds that carbon dioxide emissions are on the rise (by 1.6% in 2017), “after three flat years”, and that they are likely to continue rising “on a slow upward trend to 2040”. None of the scenarios projected in the report show renewables growing fast enough to meet global climate goals. Under current policies, said the IEA, the world would see increasing strains on almost all aspects of energy security and “a major additional rise” in energy-related carbon emissions. Even under a sustainable development scenario, aimed at achieving the energy goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development agenda and the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement, renewables growth falls short of delivering a climate change cure.
Renewable energy is playing its part, though, with wind and solar now providing 6% of global electricity generation compared with 0.2% in 2000. But it will not be enough—global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.6% last year and are set to climb steadily till 2040. Instead, society would also need to rely on energy efficiency and largely untested technologies such as renewable hydrogen synthesis and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), as well as the writing-off of current investments in new coal plants, as the IEA explained in a press release, “coal-fired power plants, which account for one third of energy-related CO2 emissions today, represent more than a third of cumulative locked-in emissions to 2040”. So the only way to reduce the harmful effects of these emissions is to utilise the CCUS technology. And the most important player for the same are the governments of the world which, according to the report, are responsible for 70% of the investment in the world’s energy infrastructure.