Today we face the dual challenge of achieving both energy security and a positive climate outcome. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that carbon emissions from fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas are rising to record levels.
Indeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that despite the considerable support given to renewable energy over the past few decades and increasing energy efficiency, fossil fuels will still provide about 75% of primary energy in 2040.
Yet to achieve a 2°C outcome we have to reach zero emissions in about the same timeframe. Renewables are a vital part of the abatement and energy security story. While there is no doubting their importance, they are not the whole answer in the timeframes we face. Energy efficiency is a win-win element, but it cannot do all the work required either. While there are many who are convinced that renewables and energy efficiency are the best path to a low emission world, we should test them against the data and predictions mentioned earlier. I find it hard to see a 2°C outcome – with energy security at minimal cost – by 2050 being achieved if we also limit the low emission technologies that can be used.
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