Paris climate pledges extend carbon budget by …. 8 months

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Key IEA report says climate pledges have so far fallen short, extending carbon budget by just 8 months. It has key message for Australia: coal consumption must peak before 2020, Australia’s inefficient coal fleet must be phased out, and wind and solar will underpin new investment to meet climate targets.

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The International Energy Agency has painted a bleak picture of progress towards a successful outcome in the climate talks in Paris this year, saying that the sum total of additional pledges made by leading countries have made little difference to the globe’s carbon budget.

The IEA says that the INDC’s (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) so far pledged have managed to extend the world’s carbon budget – the level at which the world has a 50 per cent chance of keeping average global warming below 2°C, and so avoid runaway climate change – by just 8 months.

iea scenarios bridge etc

It says that, on current pledges, the world is heading to a temperature increase of 3.5°C after 2200, which would translate into higher average temperatures over land of around 4.3°C . “It is well known that the (pledges) will fall well short of what is needed to be on a path to the 2°C goal ,” it writes.

Still, the IEA says the game is not lost. The IEA notes that if the pledges are met, then renewable energy will overtake coal as the biggest source of electricity and account for one-third of electricity generation.

It lays out a new “bridging scenario” that it says can keep the door open to meet the 2°C target that all countries have signed up for. The scenario has major implications for Australia, because under the Coalition key climate and energy policies are being based on the IEA’s “new policies” scenario, which suggests no change.

The major part of the bridging scenario includes a peak in energy emissions – and a peak in coal consumption by 2020. It says this can be attained without any additional cost – mostly by removing the fossil fuel subsidies that distort the energy picture in many parts of the globe, increasing energy efficiency and phasing out the sort of inefficient coal-fired power stations that underpin Australia’s grid.

“A near-term peak in global emissions is also critical for credibility of overall climate efforts: if investors and policymakers see global emissions slow then peak, this in itself will be a hugely significant signal that the transition is underway,” it writes. As the graph above suggests, meeting the 2°C scenario will require an almost complete decarbonisation by 2050, well ahead of the 2100 commitment made last week by the G7 countries.

The IEA suggest that countries that have yet to submit INDCs (and this includes Australia) “could consider putting forward a mitigation goal that is at least in line with the scale of ambition reflected in the Bridge Scenario.”

It adds: “Countries that are willing to act early not only lower their transition costs, but play a significant role in demonstrating what is achievable and catalysing greater action elsewhere.”

The IEA notes that subsidised fuel prices and other government support for fossil fuels amounts to a $115 a tonne incentive to pollute, almost 16 times the prevailing price of emission permits in European carbon markets.

Fossil-fuel support systems represent 13 per cent of global emissions, compared with the 11 per cent governed by carbon markets, according to the group. Australia is not immune. In Western Australia, for instance, by the state government’s own estimates, the state is subsidising fossil fuel-based power consumption by $330 a household per year.

“If you dirty up the world, I will reward you. This is the message,” Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist, told Bloomberg in an interview in London.

The IEA also wants no new inefficient coal plants, and all the current ones to be phased out. It is particularly against so-called “sub-critical” coal plants. That describes almost the entire Australian coal fleet.

And whereas Australia is looking to cut the amount of renewables added to the grid, the IEA is pushing for a major increase. It says that under current scenarios renewable energy would account for one-third of electricity generation by 2030, up from one-fifth today, ahead of coal, gas and oil. Under the bridge and 450 scenarios (which meets the 2°C climate goal), wind and solar are the focus of investment.

iea global wind investment

“Renewables become the leading source of electricity by 2030, as average annual investment in non-hydro renewables is 80 per cent higher than levels seen since 2000, but inefficient coal-fired power generation capacity declines only slightly,” the IEA says of commitments made so far.

“With INDCs submitted so far, and the planned energy policies in countries that have yet to submit, the world’s estimated remaining carbon budget consistent with a 50 per cent chance of keeping the rise in temperature below 2°C is consumed by around 2040 – eight months later than is projected in the absence of INDCs.

“This underlines the need for all countries to submit ambitious INDCs for COP21 and for these INDCs to be recognised as a basis upon which to build stronger future action, including from opportunities for collaborative/coordinated action or those enabled by a transfer of resources (such as technology and finance).

“If stronger action is not forthcoming after 2030, the path in the INDC Scenario would be consistent with an average temperature increase of around 2.6°C by 2100 and 3.5°C after 2200. “

The IEA says that a peak in emissions can be achieved with proven technologies and policies and without changing the economic and development prospects of any region.

It notes that the bulk if investment needed to meet the 2°C target will be from wind and solar, which it defines as “variable renewables”. It predicts that the capacity of wind and solar will surge from about 450GW today to 3,300GW in 2040.

“Investment in variable renewables … far outpaces investment in other low-carbon technologies,” it says.

global investment IEA

This in turn, creates a positive cycle, driving down the capital costs of new projects, making them increasingly financially attractive and so expanding market opportunities, in turn leading back to higher investment and greater deployment. Together, it says, variable renewables become a significant share of the power generation mix in many regions by 2040; they account for over 30 per cent of total generation in Europe, more than 20 per cent in the United States, Japan and India, and close to 15 per cent in Latin America and Africa.

The IEA, however, says its 2°C scenario is also highly dependent on carbon capture and storage. It says the costs of CCS to date are way too expensive, but thinks that widespread deployment will lower the costs. At the same time, it suggests a global carbon price of around $140/tonne will be needed by 2040. That would certainly bring CCS into competition with current coal plants.

But would it be enough to match renewables? Despite its favourable outlook on the share of variable renewable energy sources, the IEA remains highly conservative about its technology costs and its forecasts are dependent on technology cost estimates that many will find surprising, and others already out of date,

Its technology cost estimates for solar PV for instance – of between $US70 and $100/MWh for 2040 – are already being achieved in the Middle East, the US, and Latin America.

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6 Comments
  1. john 4 years ago

    my thoughts are these China and Europe will make as they are changes to enable less reliance on Carbon.
    The USA as usual on any issue of global importance will come in very late and be there when the rest have done the hard work.
    In 30 years time there will be a recognition that humans have to change their way of living because they are destroying their nest.
    This of course will be very hard for poorly educated people to absorb due to the amount of disinformation so pervading our media once past schooling.
    Do I feel in any way optimistic no I do not.
    It does not matter because I will be dead but I have to leave a message for my great, great, grand kids which will apologise for my generations total ignorance and self centred outlook on life, which has given them such a degrade planet.

    • Matthew Race 4 years ago

      just as long as you are doing your part john, that’s minimum our grandchildren will deserve

  2. Mike Dill 4 years ago

    I do not feel that the IEA understands the current growth rate or the potential growth rate for solar and wind. While not in the official country targets, many utilities are finding that coal no longer makes economic sense. If Elon Musk is correct, Battery electric vehicles of all types from small cars to garbage trucks and buses will be cheaper than internal combustion in five or six years. Heating and cooling are big energy use items, and with more efficiency those can also mitigate the problem.

    Solar electric generation costs continue to decline, storage costs continue to decline, wind power generation continues to decline in price, other renewables are also making strides. There will be some anguish, and we will not make the 2 degree goal in a timely manner, but I no longer feel that we will perish from the face of the earth.

  3. peter d. mare 4 years ago

    Change will be happening much faster than these forecasts. Case in point: BioSolar is developing a breakthrough technology to significantly increase the capacity, lower the cost and extend the life of lithium-ion batteries.

    Based on the company’s internal analysis, a super battery built using its technology can double the range of a Tesla automobile, costs 4 times less, has faster charging time, longer life and can potentially break the $100/kWh cost barrier needed for mass market adoption of energy storage.

    With the modern world running on electricity, the need for battery storage has never been greater. The ability to store energy, take it on the go, and use it later anytime and anywhere, has opened up a new world of “Killer Apps” such as long range electric vehicles, iPhones and other mobile devices, or time-shifting of renewable wind and solar energy for later use. The key to enabling these Killer Apps is better and lower cost batteries.

    GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association predict that the energy storage market in the United States will triple in 2015, and will grow from $128 million in 2014 to $1.5 billion by 2019. Over 70% of installed energy storage capacity uses lithium-ion batteries, as the technology is proven and bankable. Lux Research predicts that the global energy storage market will rise to $50 billion by 2020.

    Dr. David Lee, the company’s CEO said, “A battery contains two major parts, a cathode and an anode, that function together as the positive and negative sides. Today’s state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery is limited by the storage capacity of its cathode, while the anode can store much more. Inspired by nature, we are developing a novel cathode based on inexpensive conductive polymers and organic materials that can fully utilize the storage capacity of conventional anodes. By integrating our high capacity, high power and low-cost cathode with conventional anodes, battery manufacturers can create a super lithium-ion battery that can double the range of a Tesla, power an iPhone for 2 days straight, or store daytime solar energy for nighttime use.”

    BioSolar’s novel high capacity cathode is engineered from a polymer, similar to that of low cost plastics and can hold 2 electrons for each molecular unit. Instead of conventional cathodes that use lithium-ion intercalation chemistry, which is inherently slow, the company’s technology exploits the fast redox-reaction properties of polymers to enable rapid charge and discharge.

    BioSolar is currently funding a sponsored research program at the University of California, Santa Barbara (“UCSB”), to further develop its super battery technology. The lead inventors of the technology are UCSB professor Dr. Alan Heeger, the recipient of a Nobel Prize in 2000 for the discovery and development of conductive polymers, and Dr. David Vonlanthen, a project scientist and expert in energy storage at UCSB.

    To learn more about BioSolar, please visit our website at http://www.biosolar.com.

    • mike flanagan 4 years ago

      Thanks Peter. Yet another example of pathways to a solution with inadequate funding and little taxpayer support, while we willingly shovel billions of dollars of funds into the means to destabilize the planets atmosphere.

  4. mike flanagan 4 years ago

    With due respect for the valiant efforts of Giles over many years it is an inadequate
    and despondent inducing ambition that has been set for ourselves by our more ‘progressive’ political leaders. Many science papers prepared by respected researchers of the dilemma we face only put a fifty (50) percent probability of avoiding catastrophic tripping of the release of the planets naturally sequestered methane and carbon stores with this target.

    The 2C ambition is a political contrived ambition, not a science dictated ambition.
    While if you used it as a starting to point for the actual ambitions we should
    be striving to accomplish it may serve a purpose, but there is very little
    indication that this is case.

    There is no indication that the western world will accept responsibility for their
    historic emissions that underpin their wealth. China is being congratulated for
    stabilizing their coal emissions five years after the IEA’s cutoff point. Japan
    has quietly used the Fukushima tragedy to cancel their earlier emissions
    reduction ambitions. Australia and Canada governments , stupefied by the fossil
    fuel dependent industries, are not only rejecting the ambition but are engineering
    a fifth columnist union of many of these governments (Abbott’s new found ally
    Abe’s Japan included) to bring discord where consensus is paramount.

    With the windows of opportunity to address this problem with sobriety and constructive purpose within scientifically designed parameters vanishing before our eyes, which in turn is inviting open discussion for atmospheric engineering for the
    planet as a untested and radical solution, one really has to question the assumptions
    of rationality ascribed to the human species, even in the face of its proven
    technical sophistication and capacity for ingenuity.

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