IEA calls for urgent climate action

Steve Sawyer on IEA’s new report which was released earlier this morning:

“Once again, the IEA has taken the lead on climate change among international institutions, releasing a new report today calling for urgent action to preserve our ability to remain on track to meet the global target to keep global mean temperature rise to less than 2°C. Equally importantly, it lays out the basic physics of the situation in a way no one can ignore: “we delay action on climate change at our peril and at huge economic cost, and here are the numbers.”

The report makes the case for enhanced action on four areas which can be done quickly and relatively cheaply: 

  • Urgent action on energy efficiency;
  • Ban the construction of new sub-critical coal plants, and phase out the existing ones;
  • Minimise methane leakage from natural gas exploration, development and production;
  • And phase out (some) fossil fuel subsidies

It’s all great stuff, as far as it goes, although as an organ of the OECD, the IEA naturally focuses on fossil fuel subsidies outside the OECD, and turns a blind eye to the more than 100 billion USD of mostly upstream fossil fuel subsidies in its member states.

Two things bother me: one, the consistent low-balling of renewable energy development projections. While the IEA’s work on RE has improved dramatically of late, for wind, for instance, it is always the case that the last year was the largest market there will ever be. They project an average market of less than 40 GW for wind for the rest of the decade. This will not be the case if I/we have anything to do with it.

Secondly, it just won’t give up on CCS. Rather than putting it forward as the saving grace of the climate, or a panacea for the power sector of the future, they have now adopted the strategy of selling it to the fossil fuel industry as ‘an asset protection strategy’; i.e., if you don’t adopt CCS, you will have even more stranded assets in the form of unburnable reserves and unusable power plants under a climate protection scenario than you might otherwise. It even goes on to suggest that if we use RE instead of CCS then meeting the targets would be more expensive, even though the costs of CCS are unknown but undoubtedly quite high, and RE costs continue to come down and will no doubt continue to do so.

I’m confident that in reality we will see a predominantly renewable future; and we have some chance of also protecting the climate if the IEA’s four main recommendations from this report are adopted as well.”