The following is a response by Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, to a letter received on the role of the World Energy Outlook in shaping global energy policies.
I would like to thank you for your joint letter dated 2 April, which refers to the role that the IEA’s World Energy Outlook (WEO) plays in shaping global energy decisions.
I appreciate your comments about how the WEO has been a “constant lighthouse, interpreting the global scientific needs as well as the current and projected reality of the sector,” and your suggestions on how to improve our work going ahead. We are always eager to receive feedback, and take all such comments into careful consideration when preparing new editions of the WEO.
I would also like to express my appreciation for the important role that many of you have played in enriching understanding of the climate challenge. I believe we share a common objective: reducing global carbon emissions and tackling climate change. The IEA is committed to a secure, affordable, and sustainable energy future for all. This is our guiding mission, and stands at the core of our mandate as an inter-governmental organisation.
For many years, the WEO has provided annual climate stabilisation scenarios incorporating the latest data on technology, market and science. We will do so, again, in our 2019 edition. As far as I know, no one else produces such comprehensive and regular analysis of where the global energy system and emissions are headed and where they need to go to meet our shared goals. Our data and analysis are also incorporated into IPCC reports, including the latest 1.5°C analysis.
Ten years ago already, the WEO included a detailed scenario for a “veritable low-carbon revolution” to peak CO2 emissions by 2020 and warned that in the absence of much stronger policy action, energy-related emissions would continue to rise. Immediately after the Paris Agreement was signed, we analysed the implications for the energy sector of a 1.5°C world in the WEO-2016.
In 2017, the WEO introduced the Sustainable Development Scenario, which provides an integrated approach to meeting our climate goals under the Paris Agreement while also ensuring universal energy access for all and reducing air pollution. This unique scenario provides a way for the world to simultaneously meet these critically important objectives under the UN Sustainable Development Goals. After all, countries are not only seeking to do their part to achieve shared climate goals, but are also looking to reduce deadly air pollution while ensuring access to energy services for all their citizens.
The Sustainable Development Scenario is fully aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”. In fact, it is more ambitious than most other “well-below 2°C” scenarios: emissions in 2040 lie well within the emissions envelope of scenarios that project a temperature rise below 1.5°C in 2100.
Science tells us that we need an early peak and rapid decline in emissions, which is what the Sustainable Development Scenario delivers. But as our recent data for 2018 shows, and as we have been warning for years, the world is continuing to move in exactly the opposite direction, with a trajectory leading us towards warming of at least 2.7°C. We are highlighting this disconnect at every opportunity. The need to act is clear. At the IEA, our focus is on ambitious and pragmatic solutions that can make a real difference in the real world. We are stepping up our core work in support of sound and sustainable policy making, for instance via good data, training, advice and capacity building.
In addition to advising long-standing IEA Members for more than 40 years, we are also partnering – for example via our recent Clean Energy Transitions Programme – with new members of the IEA family to help them achieve their clean energy objectives as quickly as possible. For instance, we are working with the government of India on efficiency standards for air conditioners, whose growth in the next decades will be the country’s largest source of electricity demand. We are advising China on an emissions trading system. We are helping the governments of Indonesia and Thailand to find solutions to integrate higher shares of renewables into their grids. I can also add to this list our decade-long work on phasing out fossil fuels subsidies or more recently our focus on ways to reduce methane emissions.
I am aware of the huge responsibility we have as the world’s leading energy body, and the role we can play in helping close the gap between current emissions trends and our long-term climate goals. Rest assured that the IEA will continue to use its data, analysis and global reach to build a more secure and sustainable energy future for all.
Dr Fatih Birol
International Energy Agency