The national climate pledges currently on the table ahead of the UN climate talks represent a clear sign that the clean energy transition is underway, with renewables’ share of the global energy mix expected to hit a quarter by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In its latest World Energy Outlook, the IEA found that 2014 already had a “tantalising hint… of a decoupling… between CO2 emissions and economic activity”.
And while energy use is still expected to grow by one-third by 2040, national climate plans currently on the table will further push renewables’ share in the global energy mix.
60 cents of every dollar invested in new power plants between now and then will be spent on renewables as they become increasingly affordable and the amount of electricity generated by renewables will increase by 8,300 TWh by 2040, says the IEA – that’s equivalent to the output of today’s fossil-fuel plants in China, the US and the EU combined.
Meanwhile coal – the dirtiest energy source – will see its decline continue, with renewables expected to overtake it as the largest source of electricity by the early 2030s, according to the report.
Coal demand has not met industry expectations, with new research from Greenpeace showing global use fell 2.3% to 4.6% in the first nine months of 2015, driven by a slowdown in China and the US.
And this trend is set to continue, with the IEA predicting that coal’s share of the global electricity mix could fall from 41% to 30% by 2040.
And while there is still likely to be demand for coal in developing countries to 2040, its role in meeting increased energy demand will shrink to just 10 per cent, down from 45% over the last decade.
But with global energy use expected to increase by one-third by 2040, the IEA that while “the direction of travel is changing” in the global energy sector, “the destination is still not 2C”.
To keep global temperature rise below this internationally agreed threshold, the Paris agreement would need to include a mechanism to “secure progressively stronger climate commitments over time”.
Such an agreement, which ramps up ambition in line with a phase out of fossil fuels, would bring an even greater transformation of global energy supply than currently predicted, and huge benefits for citizens and economies.
It echoes growing calls for a mechanism to “secure progressively stronger climate commitments over time” and calls on world leaders meeting in Paris to “set a clear direction for the accelerated transformation of the global energy sector”.