Removing coal from the global energy mix is taking too long

Removing coal from the global energy mix is taking too long, too many forests are still being destroyed, and fossil fuel subsidies are ongoing despite their distorting effect on the market, study has found.

There has also been insufficient progress in agriculture to stop harmful practices that increase carbon dioxide production, and heavy industry is not doing enough to use energy more efficiently, according to analysis carried out by the World Resources Institute thinktank.

Without progress on all these fronts, the world is unlikely to see global greenhouse gas emissions peak in 2020, which is likely to be necessary to stay within the 1.5C or 2C warming thresholds that scientists have identifiedas key to the future safety of the planet.

But the analysis also found important steps forward, on renewable energy, curtailing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and public sector investment in reducing emissions. These suggest progress in other aspects of tackling climate change is also possible, with greater effort from the public and private sectors.

The WIR looked at six key goals that have been pegged as necessary to cause emissions to peak in 2020 and achieve the targets of the 2015 Paris agreement. They include goals on energy, transport, land use, industry, infrastructure and finance.

The report found that renewable energy accounted for about a quarter of global electricity generation in 2017, and more than two-thirds of new power generation capacity. By 2020, electricity from renewables is likely to be consistently cheaper than fossil fuel energy, making it possible that 30% of electricity could come from renewable sources by 2030, one of the Mission2020 milestones.

But coal-fired generation is still increasing, with coal-fired power plants continuing to be built in some areas, while existing plants are not being removed from service fast enough. Electric vehicles, meanwhile, comprise 1.4% of overall sales, making a 2020 milestone of 15% of new car sales hard to reach.

Figueres is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos to press political and business leaders for more support for climate change initiatives. She said: “The impacts [of climate change] have never been as clear, nor action so urgent, as we are quickly approaching tipping points of no return. It would follow, then, that leaders everywhere should now be discussing this number one concern as their number one priority.”

She added: “The decisions we take over the next two to three years are crucial for the unprecedented structural changes we must embark on to safeguard our climate and clean up our air. This is the make it or break it opportunity we have, knowing that the world is expected to invest about $90tn on infrastructure in the period up to 2030, with much of this investment to be programmed in the next few years.”