/ 19 May 2021

Tough calls to meet ‘world’s greatest challenge’

To limit the impacts of climate change, the world energy watchdog says new coal, oil and gas projects must immediately cease. There must be a rapid acceleration of renewable energy. And the sale of combustion-engine cars must end by 2035. These are just some of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recommendations in its landmark report released yesterday that will be discussed at the next big climate summit – the United Nations’ COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November.

Well, the IEA says if the world is to hit net zero emissions by 2050 to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels (aka the goal laid out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement), that’s what needs to happen. Agency boss Fatih Birol says even then, it’s going to be tough but doable – and the work must start now in 3 key areas:

• Nations must put short-term actions next to their goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 – something many have not done.

• Every year the world will need to install 4 times the amount of wind and solar energy than it did in 2020. Which is a lot.

• And the world has to innovate because “in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase,” the report notes.

Good question. The Morrison Government has not committed to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, but a lot of the developed world has… And if the world is to really go there, the report says demand for coal could plunge from 90% to just 1% of total energy use in 2050, and natural gas would drop by 55%. That would be a significant hit to a couple of our big exports, leaving many thousands of Aussie jobs on the line and a lot of politics to play out… The report also comes as Australia faces an energy supply problem with the government planning to use gas as a source of power generation. And overnight, the Morrison Government confirmed it will spend up to $600 million on a new gas-fired power station in NSW’s Hunter Valley. None of it is easy with Birol acknowledging the issues are “the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”

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