Oct 27, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Fossil fuel consumption expected to peak in this decade

Illustration of oil rigs fading away.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The International Energy Agency is projecting a "noticeable peak in overall fossil fuel consumption within this decade" under nations' existing energy and climate policies.

Why it matters: The first-time finding in IEA's just-published annual World Energy Outlook underscores major changes underway in the global energy system.

Yes, but: While IEA sees "distinct signs of change," the trends "do not yet amount to a paradigm shift" that would put the world on a path to meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Driving the news: IEA sped up projections for arrival of this moment due largely to lower estimates of gas demand, which they now see reaching a plateau by decade's end.

  • The report says a mix of policy, market and tech forces are driving the trends: higher gas prices spurred by Russia's war on Ukraine, increasing cost-competitiveness of renewables, and stronger low-carbon energy and efficiency policies (including Europe's response to Russia's attack).
  • IEA also sees global coal demand peaking within a few years and declining more quickly than in prior analyses, while oil consumption reaches a high point in the mid-2030s before falling back.

Zoom in: Under IEA's "stated policies" scenario, fossil fuels' share of the global energy mix falls sharply in coming decades, but still remains slightly above 60% in 2050.

  • That's projected to bring global temperature rise of 2.5°C by 2100, far past the main Paris target of 1.5°C, a benchmark for avoiding some of the most dangerous climate harms.
  • "This is a better outcome than projected a few years ago: renewed policy momentum and technology gains made since 2015 have shaved around 1°C off the long‐term temperature rise," the report stated.
  • If countries actually enact emissions-cutting pledges they've made, IEA sees long-term rise held to 1.7 °C. But, the report cautions, "it is easier to make pledges than to implement them."

What's next: We'll have much more on IEA's wide-ranging report in Thursday's Axios Generate newsletter. Sign up.

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