New energy policies are urgently needed to put countries on the path to zero net greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s leading energy economist warned, as economies are rapidly preparing to switch back to using fossil fuels instead. to forge an ecological recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of the world’s largest economies now have long-term goals of reaching net zero by mid-century, but few have the policies necessary to meet those goals, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). ).
The latest figures from the IEA show that global coal use was roughly 4% higher in the final quarter of 2020 than in the same period of 2019, the clearest indication yet of a potentially disastrous rebound in coal use. dirtiest fossil fuels, after last year’s shutdowns around the world when emissions plummeted.
Birol told The Guardian: “We are not on the way to ecological recovery, quite the contrary. We have seen higher global emissions in December 2020 than in December 2019. As long as countries do not implement the right energy policies, the economic rebound will cause emissions to rise significantly in 2021. We will make the job of reaching net zero more difficult . “
He urged governments to support clean energy and technology, such as electric vehicles, and make fossil fuels less economically attractive. “Governments must provide clear signals to investors around the world that investing in dirty energy will carry a greater risk of losing money. This unmistakable signal must be conveyed by policy makers to regulators, investors and others, ”he said.
The IEA is holding a meeting of governments on Wednesday to outline net-zero plans. The UK, host of the UN COP26 climate talks later this year, will urge countries that have not yet adopted net zero targets, including India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia, to Make such commitments and ask all countries to come. with emission reduction targets in the next 10 years that will pave the way towards the long-term goal.
Alok Sharma, the UK minister who is chairman of the Cop26 summit, recently wrote in The Guardian that both long-term net goals and short-term plans for 2030 would be needed by all countries for the talks to be successful.
Birol said stronger targets for 2030 were essential to reach net zero. “Looking at the energy sector, the next 10 years will be very, very critical,” he said. “If governments invest money in financing clean energy, in the context of their economic recovery plans, that will make the challenge less difficult.”
He called on the US to lead the way in establishing a national plan, called a nationally determined contribution (NDC), to reduce emissions significantly over the next 10 years. “NDCs must be ambitious, credible, accountable, and backed by credible energy policies,” he said. “The current US NDC is not ambitious enough and not in line with the US leadership in an international climate campaign.”
Birol also urged governments to implement strong policies to discourage drivers from buying SUVs, which account for nearly half of all cars sold in key economies. The United States led the switch to SUVs, but the vehicles, which can emit a third more carbon dioxide than smaller cars, are now becoming increasingly popular in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, as well as in the United States. large emerging economies, including China and India.
“It will not be possible to meet our climate targets if SUV sales continue at this rate,” he said. “We must shift technology to electric vehicles or change tax policies to provide financial disincentives for consumers to opt for the SUV option.”
In the UK, the National Audit Office found that greenhouse gas emissions from cars had decreased by just 1% since 2011, largely as a result of the widespread switch to SUVs. The UK government has also been criticized by activists for reducing incentives for electric vehicles while freezing tariffs on gasoline and diesel fuel.
The UK is also hosting a climate and development conference this week, in the run-up to Cop26. Ministers from around the world will attend virtually and donor countries will be encouraged to present plans to support countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate collapse.
Britain will need the support of more than 130 developing countries for COP26 to be a success. Environmental activists have written to the government to warn that cuts to the foreign aid budget may undermine confidence in the UK presidency.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism