Shift towards sustainable global energy too slow

A resident of Loos-en-Gohelle with carrots harvested in a shared flower and vegetable garden installed in the town’s city centre. The town in the north of France made a successful transition from coal mining to a green economy.
A resident of Loos-en-Gohelle with carrots harvested in a shared flower and vegetable garden installed in the town’s city centre. The town in the north of France made a successful transition from coal mining to a green economy. PHOTO: REUTERS

Group says current pace will not stop global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels

LONDON • Even as the world shifts towards lower-carbon forms of energy, the changes are happening too slowly to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels in the coming decades, according to an international research group.

Low oil prices could make the problem worse by slowing the planet's transition to cleaner and more efficient vehicles, a report by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) warned. The group represents nearly 30 countries and aims to promote secure and environmentally sustainable global energy.

"Now is not the time to relax," Dr Fatih Birol, the agency's executive director, said in a statement accompanying the annual World Energy Outlook report released yesterday.

Global energy use is set to grow by one-third over the next 25 years, driven mostly by emerging economies, the IEA said, while energy consumption in the most developed nations is expected to decline over the same period. Energy use is projected to drop by 15 per cent by 2040 in the European Union, 12 per cent in Japan and 3 per cent in the United States on the back of increased efficiency, energy savings and demographic trends.

The group said Asian countries, such as India and China, could play a big role in determining how successfully the world combats climate change. China now seems to be on a path of slowing growth in its energy demand, the agency said. But India, where one in five people still lacks access to electricity, is entering an energy boom.

While both countries will have high demand for nuclear and renewable energy, the report said, India could also become the largest source of new demand for oil and for the dirtiest of fossil fuels: Coal.

The report was officially presented at a news conference in London, ahead of the United Nations climate conference to be held in Paris from Nov 30 to Dec 11.

The agency said the pressure on countries to reduce carbon emissions had driven adoption of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, which represented almost half of the world's new electricity-generating capacity last year.

And, despite the report's warnings about India's coal consumption, that fuel is on the decline. In the last decade, coal has been used to satisfy 45 per cent of new demand for global energy, the agency said, but it is likely to meet 10 per cent of such demand until 2040.

Even so, the report warned that "a major course correction is still required to achieve the world's agreed climate goal" of limiting global warming.

"As the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions, the energy sector must be at the heart of global action to tackle climate change," Dr Birol said.

The use of low-carbon fuels and technologies is on the rise, and the share of non-fossil fuels in the total mix is set to increase to 25 per cent by 2040 from 19 per cent now, the report said.

This trend confirmed what the IAE called a "tantalising hint" that economic growth will longer systematically translate into higher carbon dioxide emissions.

NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Shift towards sustainable global energy too slow'. Print Edition | Subscribe