The world will still thirst for fossil fuels in 2040

Source: By Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Fossil fuels will still provide the vast majority of the world’s energy in 2040, according to new projections released by consultancy Wood Mackenzie, leaving the planet far short of the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

“The energy mix is not changing nearly as quickly as the world needs it to,” Wood Mackenzie president Neal Anderson wrote in an op-ed accompanying the report, released Friday.

The report, based on a “conservative” scenario, said coal, oil, and gas will provide 85% of the world’s primary energy supply by 2040.

The forecast illustrates the scale of the ambition in Democratic presidential candidates’ plans for the U.S. economy to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, phase out the use of fossil fuels, and expand investments into renewable sources. The U.S. emits about 15% of the world’s carbon pollution.

It also comes after United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned countries last week ahead of a major Climate Action Summit in New York on Sept. 23 that they must increase their targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Far away from goals: The report says despite “rapid technological advancement across a variety of industries,” the energy mix is changing “only gradually” and the world “risks relying on fossil fuels for decades to come.”

It said zero-carbon sources need to account for 40% of the world’s energy by 2040 — compared to 15% projected by the report — in order to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, the target of the Paris agreement.

The planet has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius. Under the current pace, the world temperature would rise above 3 degrees Celsius, Wood Mackenzie said.

Carbon emissions worldwide will continue to rise into the 2020s, with growth slowing only in the 2030s, as global energy demand increases from 13 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2018 to 16 billion in 2040.

Policy, political, and technological hurdles: Industry, aviation, shipping, heating, and agriculture all lack the technology required to decarbonize them, Wood Mackenzie said.

The more high-profile power and transportation sectors have more ready means for decarbonization, with falling wind and solar costs for electricity, improvements in battery storage technology, and expected growth in electric vehicle use. Yet despite those developments, Wood Mackenzie projects wind and solar to contribute just 24% of the world’s power supply by 2040 compared with 7% today. It says 50% of renewable power will be hard to reach without long-duration energy storage, which does not exist yet.

Wood Mackenzie also flags policy concerns, with carbon pricing remaining unpopular across much of the major energy consuming countries and insufficient investment in tax subsidies and research and development into clean energy technologies.

The consultancy group cites troubling political hurdles as well, including the ongoing trade war initiated by the Trump administration against China, and rising populist and protectionist agendas in the U.S. and across Europe.

“I see that as at odds with the collaborative, can-do spirit that emerged from Paris at the end of 2015,” Anderson said.