IEA Scenarios Show Possibilities for Clean Energy Transformation Process
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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The IEA's 2018 New Policies Scenario incorporates policies and government measures already put in place, as well as likely effects of announced policies such as in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted under the Paris Agreement.

In the 2018 Sustainable Development Scenario, the power sector decarbonizes rapidly before 2040, highlighting the importance of other sectors, including those where emissions reductions are more challenging, such as industry and freight transport.

June 2019: Energy production and consumption are the largest source of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and energy solutions need to be advanced and implemented to meet the objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the temperature goal in its Paris Agreement on climate change. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2018 New Policies Scenario warns the world is not on course yet. However, its 2018 Sustainable Development Scenario shows that the global energy sector can still evolve to deliver on three energy-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The IEA’s 2018 New Policies Scenario incorporates policies and government measures already put in place, as well as likely effects of announced policies such as in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted under the Paris Agreement. And yet the IEA’s 2018 Sustainable Development Scenario shows how the global energy sector can still evolve to deliver to achieve universal access to energy (SDG 7), reduce the severe health impacts of air pollution (part of SDG 3) and tackle climate change (SDG 13).

The IEA’s 2018 Sustainable Development Scenario is based on the model also used for the World Energy Outlook and presents an energy transition in which:

  • renewables become the dominant force in power generation, providing over 65% of global electricity generation by 2040;
  • emissions reduction in transport, industry and buildings are achieved largely through greatly enhanced energy efficiency and increasing levels of electrification of end-uses;
  • a strong drive towards electrification (on-grid and off-grid) and provision of clean cooking facilities leads to universal access to modern energy by 2030;
  • a consequent small increase in CO2 emissions (0.1%) is offset by lower methane emissions due to a reduction in use of traditional biomass cook stoves; and
  • low-carbon economies with a more efficient energy system also improve air quality and reduce negative health impacts from air pollution.

Specifically, the IEA scenario describes energy-related GHG emissions as peaking around 2020 and then declining rapidly. By 2040, they are at around half of today’s level and on course toward net-zero emissions by 2070. The ultimate long-term temperature outcome will depend on the trajectory of emissions after 2040 – including when global CO2 emissions reach net zero – as well as levels of emissions of other types of GHGs.

The IEA scenarios were drawn from the Scenario Explorer released alongside the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 C of global warming. This shows that a continuation of the scenario pre-2040 emissions reduction rate would lead to global energy-sector CO2 emissions falling to net-zero by 2070. The agency also notes that maintaining or accelerating the rate of reduction of energy- and process-related emissions up to and beyond 2040 is likely to require robust technological innovation.

In the 2018 Sustainable Development Scenario, the power sector decarbonizes rapidly before 2040, highlighting the importance of other sectors, including those where emissions reductions are more challenging, such as industry and freight transport. Other important sectors for innovation include carbon capture, utilization and storage and so-called “negative emissions” technologies that allow CO2 to be withdrawn from the atmosphere at scale in the second-half of the century. An increase of 13% in energy investment globally, the IEA estimates, would be required to achieve the Scenario.

The need for advancement and implementation of clean energy solutions will be addressed during the fiftieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Bonn, Germany during two weeks in June. The eleventh research dialogue will address transformation of energy and other sectoral systems to achieve the purpose and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, as well as transformative adaptation and climate resilient development. A number of scheduled meetings of the technical examination process on mitigation, organized in consultation with the Technology Executive Committee and other relevant expert organizations, will focus on off-grid and decentralized energy solutions for smart energy and water use in the agriculture-food chain.

Interest in the impacts of energy transitions was also accentuated at the 2018 meeting of the Climate Change Conference, in Katowice, Poland. In December 2018, UNFCCC Parties relaunched the work of the Forum on the impact of the implementation of response measures with support of a newly created Katowice Committee of Experts on the forums’ concerns. These issues include: economic diversification and transformation; just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs; assessing and analyzing the impacts of the implementation of response measures; and facilitating the development of tools and methodologies to assess the impacts of the implementation of response measures.

In Bonn, parties are expected to develop a six-year workplan for the forum on response measures, as well as to identify research gaps and determine actions needed. Discussions will likely consider research and systematic observations, related inputs from various experts, and possibly the findings presented by the IEA, including in its Global Energy and CO2 Status Report released in March 2019. [IEA Press Release][Earth Negotiation Bulletin Coverage of UNFCCC SBs50]


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