Asian nations take issue with IEA call to freeze fossil fuel spends

Australia, Japan, Philippines say there are more ways to net zero than energy agency's suggestion

MELBOURNE • Asian energy officials have disputed the International Energy Agency's (IEA) call this week for no new oil, natural gas and coal investments for the world to be able to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, viewing that approach as too narrow.

The IEA - which used to champion the oil and gas industry - has outlined a path to net-zero emissions that suggested stopping new investments in oil, gas and coal supply, retiring coal-fired plants in advanced economies by 2030, and banning sales of new internal combustion engine cars by 2035.

Energy firms in Australia, the biggest carbon emitter per capita among the world's richest nations, and officials in Japan and the Philippines said there were many ways to get to net zero, even as the IEA said its pathway was "the most technically feasible, cost-effective and socially acceptable".

Mr Akihisa Matsuda, the deputy director of international affairs at Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said there were no plans to immediately stop oil, gas and coal investments.

"The report provides one suggestion as to how the world can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, but it is not necessarily in line with the Japanese government's policy," he said.

"Japan needs to protect its energy security, including a stable supply of electricity, so we will balance this with our goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050."

Japan was Asia's third-largest carbon emitter in 2019, after China and India, according to the BP Statistical Review of Energy.

Top oil and gas industry and mining lobby groups in Australia said there was "no one size fits all" for decarbonisation. "The IEA report doesn't take into account future negative emission technologies and offsets from outside the energy sector - two things that are likely to happen and will allow vital and necessary future development of oil and gas fields," Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief executive Andrew McConville said.

The country's top independent gas producer, Woodside Petroleum, said it aims to make a final decision on a US$11 billion (S$14.67 billion) investment to develop a new gas field off Western Australia late next year.

"Woodside is working with its customers, all of whom are in countries that have committed to net zero, to ensure we can supply them with the energy they are seeking in order to achieve their decarbonisation pathways," a spokesman said.

Canberra on Wednesday committed A$600 million (S$619 million) in taxpayer funds to build a new gas-fired power station to back up wind and solar power, which Energy Minister Angus Taylor said was a pragmatic move.

In the Philippines, where coal is set to be the dominant power source for years even after a ban on new coal plant proposals, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the energy transition should be "fuel and technology-neutral".

Cutting finance for oil, gas and coal without considering efficiency and competitiveness would "set back the Philippines' aspiration to join the ranks of upper middle-income countries", he said.

And Indonesia Coal Mining Association executive director Hendra Sinadia said demand for coal will be strong in the next few decades as some countries are still building coal-fired power plants.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2021, with the headline 'Asian nations take issue with IEA call to freeze fossil fuel spends'. Subscribe