Reuters, June 2021: https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/global-fossil-fuel-use-similar-decade-ago-energy-mix-report-says-2021-06-14/ The share of fossil fuels in the world’s total energy mix is as high as a decade ago, despite the falling cost of renewables and pressure on governments to act on climate change, a report by green energy policy network REN21 showed in its Renewables 2021 Global Status Report Fossil fuel use has persisted amid rising global energy demand, continued consumption and investment in new fossil fuel plants…
REN21 said the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix was 80.2% in 2019, compared to 80.3% in 2009, while renewables such as wind and solar made up 11.2% of the energy mix in 2019 and 8.7% in 2009, the report said. The rest of the energy mix comprises traditional biomass, used largely to cook or heat homes in developing countries.
Yet, in many regions, including parts of China, the European Union, India and the United States, it is now cheaper to build new wind or solar photovoltaic plants than to operate existing coal plants.
Renewables also are outcompeting new natural gas-fired power plants on cost in many locations, and are the cheapest sources of new electricity generation in countries across all major continents, the report said.
“We are waking up to the bitter reality that the climate policy promises over the past ten years have mostly been empty words,” said Rana Adib, REN21’s executive director. “The share of fossil fuels in final energy consumption has not moved by an inch,” she added.
In many countries, COVID-19 economic recovery packages aim to stimulate further investment in renewable energy. But renewable investments are only around one-sixth of fossil fuel investments, the report added.
Renewables grew almost 5% per year between 2009 and 2019, outpacing fossil fuels (1.7%). Renewable energy set another record for installed power capacity in 2020, meaning that we now produce around 29% of our energy from renewables.
At the same time, the world is burning more fossil fuels than ever. As seen in the graph below, the share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is as high as a decade ago and the renewable energy share only increased slightly.
2. Recovery packages pour money into the brown economy despite the advantages of renewables.
The report notes that there has been a wave of stronger commitments to action on the climate crisis in 2020. This includes net zero carbon emissions targets by China, Japan, South Korea and several other regions, countries, cities and companies.
Following announcements of funding for a green economic recovery, taking public spending to levels higher than the Marshall Plan after World War II, 2020 should have been the year when the world pushed the reset button for the global climate economy and renewables.
Instead of driving transformation, recovery packages provide six times more investment to fossil fuels than to renewable energy. As illustrated in the figure below, there was a distinct lack of funding to renewables, despite all the promises made during the Covid-19 crisis.
This year’s report raises a fundamental question: what is holding the world back from using the COVID crisis as an opportunity for transformation? Dr. Stephan Singer, Senior Advisor at CAN International says, “Unfortunately the harsh lesson from the pandemic is that most governments did not use the unique opportunity to further curtail carbon pollution and break the resistance of the fossil fuel incumbents. What counts for them is corporate profit – neither the climate nor people’s health.”
3. For the first time ever, the number of countries with renewable energy support policies did not increase.
Renewable energy targets set the course, but policies are needed to make sure we reach the destination. The targets often aren’t achieved because the prevailing policy frameworks are ineffective. 2020, the year of new norms, highlighted inaction among the world’s policy makers and the lack of concrete measures to decarbonise their economies. The number of countries with policies for renewable energy in transport plateaued in 2017; for heating and cooling the number peaked in the same year and has been declining ever since.
Targets have to be backed up by policies that support the uptake of renewables by incentivising and/or mandating their use. But this is not enough – governments also need to actively phase out the use of fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies.
4. Shifting to renewable energy is not only necessary and possible, but it also makes business sense
Fossil fuels are responsible for climate change, and also heavily contribute to biodiversity loss and pollution. Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a necessary step to take and making renewables the norm is not a question of technology or costs.
The power sector has made great progress already. Today, almost all new power capacity is renewable. More than 256 GW were added globally in 2020 – surpassing the previous record by nearly 30%.
In more and more regions, including parts of China, the EU, India and the United States, it is now cheaper to build new wind or solar PV plants than to operate existing coal-fired power plants.
The business world also is catching on. The amount of renewable electricity from power purchase agreements has grown substantially in recent years, with a record 23.7 GW sourced from corporate PPAs in 2020. This was growth of 18% despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The renewable energy transition is gaining pace because it makes business sense as well as environmental sense. Renewable electricity is already creating millions of jobs, saving businesses money, and providing energy access to millions. But businesses and governments need to go faster, not only for the environment, but to remain competitive in a renewably powered 21st century economy,” says Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100.
5. The world’s progress towards climate neutrality can be tracked with one simple key performance indicator: renewable energy.
REN21’s 2021 report clearly shows that governments need to give a much harder push to renewables in all sectors. As seen in the figure below, only five of the world’s largest member economies in the G20 – the EU-27, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom – had set 2020 targets to achieve a certain share of renewables in final energy use.
The window of opportunity is closing unless efforts are significantly ramped up, and it will not be easy to do. Rana Adib, Executive Director at REN21 states:
“Governments must not only support renewables but also rapidly decommission fossil fuel capacity. A good way to accelerate development is to make the uptake of renewable energy a key performance indicator for every economic activity, every budget and every single public purchase. Thus, every ministry should have short-and long-term targets and plans to shift to renewable energy coupled with clear end-dates for fossil fuels.”
Nothing will happen unless we measure the right indicator. Considering the urgency of accelerating the structural shift from fossil fuels to renewables in all societal and economic activities, it is not enough anymore to track renewable energy targets, policies and investment. The world’s progress towards global climate and sustainable development goals can be measured by a simple key performance indicator: the share of renewable energy.
The share of renewable energy reflects developments in energy demand, energy conservation, energy eﬀiciency and emissions in addition to renewable energy uptake and the reduction of fossil fuel use. Reaching a high renewable energy share can be used as the blueprint for a structural shift towards a transformed energy world.
Therefore, this indicator should be integrated at every level of decision making. Because energy is everywhere, the energy transition needs to happen everywhere. This particular key performance indicator lets people measure progress and ensure engagement globally, nationally, in regions, in cities, in any economic sector and even in businesses.
Visit the report page to dive into the online interactive report or download the full report PDF to discover how your sector or area of the world is doing with driving the transition to renewable energy. https://www.ren21.net/five-takeaways-from-ren21s-renewables-2021-global-status-report/
Figueres, April 2021: “The concentrations of greenhouse gases have continued to increase in 2019 and 2020. 2019 saw the highest ocean heat level on record.”…“Do we want to walk down a path of constant destruction and human misery, the likes of which we have never seen?” she asked. “Or do we actually want to wake up and say we’re not condemned to that future?” https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2021/4/23/Paris-agreement-negotiator-talks-climate-change/
Americans are tired of bankrolling Big Oil. Biden listened–will Congress?
May 28, 2021 Posted by Daniel Mulé
For decades, the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed outlandish subsidies from taxpayers. Congress and the administration finally have the opportunity to stop the handouts, and address climate change, corporate power, and racial justice.
Piling on to Big Oil’s very bad week, the Biden administration took steps today to advance a campaign commitment to end the injustice of fossil fuel subsidies–the wasteful practice of spending public money on oil, gas, and coal companies.
These giveaways bolster corporate profits on the taxpayer’s dime, prop up a dying industry, and delay the just energy transition that we desperately need–and for which Americans voted in 2020.
Will Congress listen to voters–or lobbyists?
To be sure, President Biden’s FY22 budget is not great for Big Oil backers, who shockingly continue to claim that fossil fuel subsidies do not exist (even doubling down last month, in testimony before Congress).
The budget proposal would eliminate some of the most egregious examples of corporate welfare, which may add up to some $121 billion over ten years in handouts for the fossil fuel industry.*
Some of these subsidies are downright ridiculous, including each of the top four:
- Massive loopholes in taxing foreign oil and gas income (the $85 billion surprise!) that, among other things, exclude from normal US taxation any US-corporation-controlled foreign corporations’ income that specifically comes from oil and gas refining, transportation, and distribution…comically, these Trump-era giveaways incentivize both oil and gas polluting and offshoring.
- Expensing of intangible drilling costs ($10 billion) allows companies to immediately expense at least 70 percent of well drilling and construction costs that don’t have salvage value (100 percent for independent producers)–rather than depreciate them over time like normal capital investments…why the special carve-out for polluters?
- Percentage depletion allowance ($9 billion) allows independent producers to arbitrarily deduct 15 percent of gross production value, instead of allowing for deductions based on actual capital investments…meaning they can in some cases deduct more than they actually spend!
- Enhanced oil recovery credit ($8 billion) grants oil and gas producers a tax credit for 15 percent of the costs of pumping residual oil and gas out of wells using a tertiary injectant…a credit that subsidizes polluters’ hard-to-get-to (and often energy- and carbon-intensive) production.
These and other handouts sound convoluted, but the bottom line is that these subsidies deliver billions of dollars of public money to fossil fuel companies annually.
It’s no surprise that the industry has lobbied extensively to keep and expand them, all while fighting tooth and nail to prevent the public from seeing their taxes and the other payments they make to governments–in the US and other countries around the world.
This is why Oxfam applauds the administration’s effort to #BuildBackFossilFree. And the budget is not the only way Biden is challenging the industry’s grip on public spending. The President’s January 27 Executive Order instructed agencies to identify and eliminate subsidies, and his Made in America Tax Plan calls for their elimination.
However, while the administration’s actions on this front are laudable, we’ve also been down this road before. Former President Obama included some subsidy repeals in his budget proposals every year from 2009 to 2016. And every year, Congress left the polluter handouts intact.
So what’s different now?
A lot! There is now global consensus around the need to phase out fossil fuels in order to combat climate change. Notably, several of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies have begun to make commitments (if somewhat vague and insufficient) to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050–meaning that their operations would, on the whole, no longer be fueling the climate crisis.
Just last week, the International Energy Association announced that achieving net zero in fact requires that that no new oil and gas fields be developed. And a suite of international organizations–including the IMF, OECD, G20 (and others)–have specifically called for an end to fossil fuel producer subsidies as a critical step toward phaseout.
But perhaps most importantly: The Democrats are now in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency for the first time in a decade. This reflects a groundswell of support from Americans seeking action to address climate change, hold corporations accountable, and fight for racial equity. And the public understands: voters in both parties support ending fossil fuel subsidies.
What can Congress do?
Congress should pass the End Polluter Welfare Act, introduced by Sen. Sanders and Rep. Omar, that would comprehensively repeal fossil fuel subsidies; or incorporate many of the bill’s strong provisions into the upcoming infrastructure bill.
Congress should also enact the End Oil and Tax Gas Subsidies Act, introduced in the House by Reps. Blumenauer and Casten, or the fossil fuel subsidy repeal provisions of the Clean Energy for America Act introduced by Sen. Wyden.
Congress must seize the opportunity to address this issue, once and for all, by acting immediately.
*This approach and estimate may still be quite conservative: Reports by Oil Change International and others (and even scoring by the Joint Taxation Committee) have estimated some of these corporate handouts to be more costly and have also included additional subsidies to repeal.
Nature, 05 December 2018, Emissions are still rising: ramp up the cuts. The use of oil and gas keeps growing, and some countries are still using coal to fuel much of their economic growth. With sources of renewable energy spreading fast, all sectors can do more to decarbonize the world, argue Christiana Figueres and colleagues. All efforts must strive to keep global warming to 1.5 °C. Now that we understand the different impacts of a 1.5 °C and a 2 °C rise, we cannot in good conscience provoke unnecessary risks to the most vulnerable and to the global economy. First and foremost, the world must quickly replace coal and other fossil fuels with renewables. It is an economic imperative and an ecological necessity. No new investments should be allocated to expanding fossil-fuel assets, and plans must be made for retiring existing infrastructure as clean technologies take hold. Nature 564, 27-30 (2018) doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07585-6
Representatives of 190 nations gather this week to review progress at the annual United Nations climate talks. They face a daunting reality: carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are rising again.
Global CO2 emissions are projected1 to go up in 2018 by more than 2%. In 2017, they increased by 1.6%, having flattened out between 2014 and 2016. The reasons? The use of oil and gas keeps growing, and some countries are still using coal to fuel much of their economic growth (see ‘Rising pressures’).
The UN meetings, this year in Katowice, in the heart of Poland’s coalfields, constitute a checkpoint. The Paris climate agreement was adopted in 2015 — when nations signed up to limit global warming to well below 2 °C, and to strive for 1.5 °C. The first formal revisions of national emissions-reduction targets are in 2020.
To get back on track, the revised targets must be more ambitious than those pledged in 2015. As we argued last year in Nature2, global CO2 emissions must start to fall by 2020 if we are to meet the temperature goals of the Paris agreement.
Every year of rising emissions puts economies and the homes, lives and livelihoods of billions of people at risk. It commits us to the effects of climate change for centuries to come. Already, the terrible impacts of 1 °C of warming above pre-industrial levels are evident. Disasters triggered by weather and climate in 2017 cost the global economy US$320 billion, and around 10,000 lives were lost (see go.nature.com/2fldcjy). The full costs of 2018’s disasters have yet to be tallied — including Typhoon Mangkhut, hurricanes Florence and Michael, and the heatwaves and wildfires that have ravaged swathes of Europe and the United States. These events are likely to contribute to an exponential rise in damages, amounting to some $2.2 trillion over the past two decades (see go.nature.com/2r2jyy6).
When it comes to rises in global average temperature, every fraction of a degree matters. A report published in October by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected devastating impacts at 2 °C. These include the loss of almost all the world’s coral reefs, and extreme, life-threatening heatwaves that could affect more than one-third of the world’s population3. Limiting warming to 1.5 °C will significantly lessen those impacts.
So how can we remain optimistic? A low-carbon world is hard to imagine, yet change often follows when we shift our vision of what is possible.
Reasons for optimism
Already, we have achieved things that seemed unimaginable a decade ago. The 2015 Paris agreement is a good example. When the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen failed to deliver a global framework for addressing climate change, almost everyone thought it was impossible to do so. Yet over the next six years, thousands of people and institutions made the implausible plausible.
The same is true of decarbonizing the economy by 2050. That goal seems far-fetched today because we are anchored in the high-carbon technologies and economic constructs of the twentieth century. But collectively, we are lifting that anchor and charting a course for a different tomorrow. Here’s how.
Key technologies are on track. The world is quickly and irrevocably moving towards a clean, cheap and reliable energy system. Over the past decade, the costs of generating solar energy have plummeted by 80%. Morocco, Mexico, Chile and Egypt are producing solar power for 3 US cents or less per kilowatt hour — cheaper than natural gas.
Installations are growing. Today, more than 50% of new capacity for generating electricity is renewable, with wind and solar doubling every 4 years4. In developing countries, renewables now account for the majority of all new power generation, a remarkable turnaround from just a decade ago. If these trends continue, renewables will produce half of the world’s electricity by 2030.
Coal is being priced out. A record number of US coal-fired power plants will be retired this year, even relatively new ones. In October, the World Bank declined to finance a 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Kosovo — the last coal project in the bank’s pipeline. The bank’s lending rules require it to “go with the lowest cost option, and renewables have now come below the cost of coal”, according to its president (see go.nature.com/2du6mxr).
However, the electricity grid will not be completely transformed until renewables are able to deliver continuous power. Large batteries that can store and smooth out energy supplies are becoming economical faster than expected. For example, a year ago, the state of South Australia paired a Tesla battery facility with a local wind farm. By storing power for when demand is highest, the system has already repaid nearly one-third of its upfront capital costs of Aus$90.6 million (US$65.8 million). The costs of battery storage are expected to halve by 2030 (see go.nature.com/2daiwdt).
By 2040, energy-storage systems should be capable of handling 7% of the world’s total installed power capacity (1,000 gigawatts), supporting even more solar and wind installations. Big batteries will spread beyond utilities, into energy storage for rooftop solar panels, for example. This will allow developing regions to leapfrog the need for fossil-fuel power plants and conventional distribution grids, just as mobile phones overtook landlines.
Advances in battery technology are also propelling wide uptake of electric vehicles. A rarity ten years ago, today there are three million globally on our roads. Plug-in car sales were up by 66% in the first half of this year, compared with 2017. Although electric vehicles represent a small fraction of the 80 million cars sold worldwide last year, that will soon change. Norway, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and India have set deadlines for stopping the sale of new cars that are not electric (Norway’s is 2025). Most major car manufacturers have announced either a complete shift to electric vehicles or plans for a transition. In 2016, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said there would be 46 million electric vehicles by 2040; now it predicts there will be 253 million by that date (see go.nature.com/2qjaaoj).
Abating air pollution is another powerful driver of change. Globally, air pollution contributes to seven million premature deaths every year — from cardiovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. People are becoming less tolerant of particulate and noxious-gas emissions from coal plants, factories and cars. China has closed coal-fired power plants in and near cities and has limited diesel-engine emissions. Pollution levels in Beijing have fallen by 35% over 5 years, but still have a long way to go. India has nine of the world’s ten most polluted cities, according to the World Health Organization. The country’s target is to reduce air pollution in 100 cities by 20–30% by 2024.
Heavy industry is also evolving. The Energy Transitions Commission announced last month that chemicals, steel and cement can reach net zero emissions by mid-century at a cost of less than 0.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP), with a marginal impact on living standards5.
Subnational action is booming. Three years after the Paris agreement, the political landscape has shifted markedly. In some countries, nationalistic impulses are affecting domestic and international policy, threatening the cooperative, multilateral spirit with which the Paris treaty was forged. For example, the federal US government has signalled its intent to withdraw from the agreement — although it cannot formally do so until 2020. Brazil’s new administration has expressed doubts about that country’s previously ambitious participation. Climate-sceptic voices have re-emerged in Australia.
Yet support for climate action remains strong in cities, regional governments and the private sector. Globally, more than 9,000 cities and municipalities from 128 countries, representing 16% of the world’s population, have reiterated their commitment to the Paris agreement through the Global Covenant of Mayors. So have 245 state and regional bodies from 42 countries, which are home to 17.5% of the global population6. Most US citizens live in a jurisdiction that still supports the Paris goals. If all of these US cities, states and companies stick to their emissions-reduction pledges, they could put the country within striking distance of the Paris commitment made by the Obama administration, irrespective of current federal action.
Boards of directors, presidents of central banks, investors and insurers are increasingly concerned about the economic risks of climate change and the threat to health, water, land and biodiversity resources worldwide. As many as 6,225 companies headquartered in 120 countries have pledged to contribute to the Paris goals6, representing $36.5 trillion in revenue — more than the combined GDP of the United States and China (see go.nature.com/2aphgjs). These firms understand that the agreement is likely to bring $26 trillion in economic benefits by 2030, including 65 million jobs in the booming low-carbon economy.
Carbon pricing is on the rise. In 2017, 1,400 multinational companies were factoring a price on carbon pollution into their business plans — an eightfold rise since 2014 (see go.nature.com/2p9osnb). Nearly one-quarter of the 155 companies that have committed to switching to solely renewable energy through the RE100 initiative are already getting 95% of their power from clean sources. And close to 500 companies have recognized the business opportunity of setting ‘science-based targets’ for their emissions reductions.
In 2017, more than 100 members of the Compact of States and Regions reported average reductions in emissions of 8.5%. Twelve members achieved a 20% reduction or more (see go.nature.com/2aphgjs). Global emissions could be cut by one-third by 2030 compared to current national policy pathways, if ambitious initiatives such as the Under2 Coalition, RE100, C40 and the Global Covenant of Mayors all meet their goals.
Bolder Paris targets. Whereas some parties to the Paris agreement are backsliding, many others are signalling their intention to be more ambitious. The agreement’s five-year cycle enables a gradual ratcheting up of effort, and bolder targets will be easier to achieve thanks to the market forces noted previously.
China, India and the European Union are setting the pace. These regions represent 40% of global carbon emissions. They are set to achieve more than they agreed in the first round. Their leaders can step up and announce even bolder programmes at the UN summit to review the Paris commitments in September 2019.
Leaders of smaller countries with big plans for a safer climate can do the same. In November, the Marshall Islands, a member of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, became the first country to submit a new, more ambitious climate target to the UN.
Twenty-two other countries, from Argentina to the United Kingdom, have declared that they will explore the possibility of strengthening their Paris pledges before 2020. Chile announced in February that it would phase out coal completely. And this September, four nations joined the Carbon Neutrality Coalition, bringing the total to 19. Including Canada, Mexico, Ethiopia and many in Europe, the coalition’s members commit to developing long-term emissions-reduction strategies by 2020.
The task ahead
Rising emissions are of grave concern. But the low-carbon transition is snowballing, bowled along by the underlying economics. The task now for ministers and governments meeting in Katowice is to accelerate that momentum and keep everyone on board. This includes completing the rulebook for implementing the Paris agreement so that there is a clear path forward.
All efforts must strive to keep global warming to 1.5 °C. Now that we understand the different impacts of a 1.5 °C and a 2 °C rise, we cannot in good conscience provoke unnecessary risks to the most vulnerable and to the global economy. First and foremost, the world must quickly replace coal and other fossil fuels with renewables. It is an economic imperative and an ecological necessity. No new investments should be allocated to expanding fossil-fuel assets, and plans must be made for retiring existing infrastructure as clean technologies take hold.
Leaders must broaden the scope of their actions. The EU intends to ramp up its emissions-reduction goals to 55% by 2030. This ambitious target can be attained by improving energy efficiency, by deploying renewables faster and by a quicker exit from coal. The EU can encourage stricter vehicle-emissions standards and hasten the uptake of electric vehicles, and develop public and shared transport. As one of the world’s largest importers of commodities linked to deforestation (such as palm oil), the EU can develop an initiative to combat the loss of forests and other carbon sinks. This would build on a November statement from the French government, which aims to stop imports of non-sustainable forest or agricultural products by 2030.
China can produce a low-emissions development strategy up to 2050, including a plan to replace coal that will ensure its emissions peak before 2030 and at a lower level than previously planned. China can also ensure that its investments made beyond its borders through the Belt and Road Initiative support renewable energy and protect and restore tropical forests and other sensitive ecosystems.
China and India have made substantial progress with reforestation and have the potential to do more: further tree planting could remove 1.25 gigatonnes and 520 megatonnes of CO2 per year in each country, respectively.
India can continue to deploy solar farms, leveraging its leadership of the International Solar Alliance to displace coal and clean up its smog-choked cities. By 2020, India can announce its own fossil-fuel exit strategy and a target date for its peak CO2 emissions.
A shared purpose across all political, civil and industrial sectors is key, as the breadth of authors and co-signatories to this article attests (see Supplementary Information for co-signatories). What seemed radical in 2015 is now advantageous. Let us ensure that the exponential curve of solutions outpaces that of climate impacts, and drives net emissions to zero by 2050. It’s necessary, desirable and achievable.
Nature 564, 27-30 (2018) doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07585-6
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