Shift to Lower-Carbon Energy Is Too Slow, Report Warns

Source: By STANLEY REED, New York Times • Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2015

People collecting coal from the dump site of an open coal field at Dhanbad district in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. Credit Ahmad Masood/Reuters 

LONDON — Even as the world shifts toward lower-carbon forms of energy, the changes are happening too slowly to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels in the coming decades, an international research group warns in a report released on Tuesday.

And low oil prices could make the problem worse by slowing the planet’s transition to cleaner and more efficient cars, trucks and aircraft, according to the report, by the International Energy Agency. The group represents nearly 30 countries and aims to promote secure and environmentally sustainable global energy.

“Now is not the time to relax,” Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, said in a statement accompanying the report.

The group, based in Paris, said in its annual “World Energy Outlook” that Asian countries like India and China could play a big role in determining how successfully the world combats climate change.

China now seems 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, the report said. 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 presented at a news conference on Tuesday in London, before 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 like solar and wind power, which represented almost half of the world’s new electricity-generating capacity in 2014.

“Impossible is becoming possible,” said Kaisa Kosonen, a climate policy adviser at the environmental group Greenpeace. “The global breakthrough of renewable energy has happened much faster than anticipated.”

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 percent of new demand for global energy, the agency said, but it is likely to meet 10 percent of such demand until 2040.

Even so, the report warned, “a major course correction is still required to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal” of limiting global warming to about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial 19th-century levels.

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