Nov 13, 2017

IEA: Global carbon emissions higher in 2040 absent stronger policies

The International Energy Agency has just released its big annual report on global energy trends in coming decades, including projections on energy demand, carbon emissions and changes in the global energy mix between now and 2040.

Key takeaways

Under the IEA's New Policies scenario, which models existing and officially announced policies worldwide, total global energy demand rises more slowly than in the past but still increases by 30 percent between now and 2040.

Climate change: Global carbon emissions from energy (which is the main source) increase slightly between now and 2040 in the New Policies model.

  • Why it matters: It shows that absent more aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gases, the world will fail badly to achieve the steep emissions cuts needed to hold the eventual rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees celsius above preindustrial levels—the goal of the Paris agreement to avoid some of the most dangerous climatic changes.

Evolving mix: Check out the chart below, which provides an interesting snapshot of seismic shifts in the global energy dynamics underway. It depicts how the sources of emissions growth are changing as coal demand flatlines but use of oil and natural gas rises.

Data: IEA World Energy Outlook 2017, OECD/IEA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios
Data: IEA World Energy Outlook 2017, OECD/IEA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

A few more topline conclusions

No oil peak: Global demand for oil keeps rising in the New Policies scenario, albeit slowing down after the mid-2020s, reaching almost 105 million barrels per day in 2040.

  • Greater auto efficiency and the rise of electric vehicles is more than offset by oil demand from petrochemical production, trucking, aviation and shipping.

Renewables rise: Renewables meet 40 percent of the growth of energy demand, signaling the huge changes underway in the electricity sector as gas, wind, and solar have gained as coal stagnates.

Alternate future: The report also includes a "Sustainable Development Scenario," which is an energy future that meets the climate goals of the Paris agreement, as well as providing universal access to "modern" energy by 2030 and other goals.

Features of this pathway include . . .

  • Power generation is "all but decarbonized" by 2040, with renewables at over 60 percent of worldwide generation (and together with gas accounting for over 80 percent), nuclear at 15 percent, and carbon capture and storage from fossil generation playing a role.
  • On the transportation side, one feature of this scenario is that the electric car penetration rises to roughly 875 million cars worldwide by 2040, are there are "much more stringent efficiency measures across the board, notably for road freight."
Go deeper