IEA says clean energy progress remains ‘far too slow’

The International Energy Agency issued a sobering warning Wednesday, claiming that clean energy progress remained “far too slow to put global emissions into sustained decline towards net zero.”

The Paris-based organization made its remarks in an announcement accompanying the release of its World Energy Outlook 2021. The wide-ranging report’s publication comes as the planet gears up for the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which will take place between Oct. 31 and Nov. 12.

The IEA’s report said that while electric vehicle sales achieved new records in 2020 and renewable sources such as wind and solar photovoltaic continued their rapid growth, “every data point showing the speed of change in energy can be countered by another showing the stubbornness of the status quo.” Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity.

In a sign of how much work needs to be done, the WEO described how a “rapid but uneven economic recovery from last year’s Covid‐induced recession” had put significant strains on the energy system. This had sparked “sharp price rises in natural gas, coal and electricity markets.”

“For all the advances being made by renewables and electric mobility, 2021 is seeing a large rebound in coal and oil use,” the report continued. “Largely for this reason, it is also seeing the second‐largest annual increase in CO2 emissions in history.”

Challenges ahead
The report goes through a number of scenarios when it comes to looking at the years ahead. These include its Stated Policies Scenario, where “almost all of the net growth in energy demand to 2050 is met by low emissions sources.”

While the above sounds promising, the IEA cautions that this would leave yearly emissions at roughly today’s levels. “As a result, global average temperatures are still rising when they hit 2.6 °C above pre‐industrial levels in 2100.”

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