We need to slash greenhouse emissions to limit global warming, the UN warned in October. But the International Energy Agency sees a very different future in its latest report, the World Energy Outlook 2018.
Growing energy demand in developing countries will lead to a continued rise in global carbon dioxide emissions. This is even in a “New Policies” scenario in which countries do more than they are doing now to limit emissions, according to the report, which looks at the period up until 2040.
“The New Policies Scenario puts energy-related CO2 emissions on a slow upward trend to 2040, a trajectory far out of step with what scientific knowledge says will be required to tackle climate change,” says the report.
The biggest growth will be in India, where energy demand will double. Demand in China will grow more slowly but it will still become the biggest consumer of oil in the world.
In fact, the continued growth in global demand for oil will lead to shortages and a price spike in the 2020s unlessmore new oil projects get the go-ahead. “The risk of a supply crunch looms largest in oil,” the report warns.
The world is also not on course to meet its sustainable development goals. By 2030, 650 million people will still lack electricity and more than 2 billion will still be cooking with solid fuels, with many continuing to die from air pollution.
Globally, devices connected to the internet will help drive a relentless growth in electricity demand, the report says. There is great uncertainty regarding bitcoin mining and autonomous vehicles, which could drive growth even higher.
Critics say the IEA’s reports have consistently underestimated growth in renewables. The IEA says the purpose of its reports is to show where existing and proposed policies will take us so governments can see what else needs to be done.
And it’s still gloomy about renewables. Even though solar panels are cheaper than ever, the report says there are signs that near-term deployment of new solar capacity might be slowing.