Wake-up call ahead of COP26: No new oil, gas, coal extraction projects

In the run-up to the Glassgow climate talks (COP26), the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship annual wake up report on energy pathways, details an achievable roadmap to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report calls for investment worth millions of dollars to achieve the target.

By making a 1.5 degree Celsius scenario the benchmark of this year’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA challenges governments and companies to back up lagging Paris pledges with immediate action to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels.

Notably, this year’s WEO solidifies the policy conclusion, first presented by the IEA in May, that no new oil, gas, and coal extraction projects should be approved under a 1.5 degrees C-aligned pathway, alongside a surge of investment into clean energy and efficiency solutions.

This finding bolsters climate campaigners’ demands that governments and financial institutions take immediate action to stop investing in new fossil fuel extraction and rapidly increase climate finance heading into this year’s COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The Glasgow summit is the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held since the Paris Agreement took over from the Kyoto Protocol in 2020.

It is also the first major UN environmental meeting to be held in person from November 1-12, 2021 since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The success or failure of the climate future is in world leaders’ hands, said Alok Sharma, President of the 26th United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in a speech given at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on Tuesday.

“And so is the fate of the Paris Agreement. Because since it was signed, the world has not done enough. Emissions have continued to rise, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a code red for the climate. Stating, that unless we act immediately, the 1.5-degree limit will slip out of reach,” Sharma said.

“Already, temperatures have risen at least 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Extreme weather is on the march around the world. This summer we have seen devastating flooding in central Europe and China, raging wildfires in North America, record temperatures across the globe, and what some have called the world’s first climate-induced famine in Madagascar,” he added.

Meanwhile, responding to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, David Tong, Global Industry Campaign Manager, Oil Change International, said, “Today’s report is a step change for the International Energy Agency. This year’s World Energy Outlook confirms that investment in new fossil fuel projects will undermine our chance to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

“In contrast, investing in clean energy brings huge benefits. A massive scale up of clean energy would ensure energy access, reduce price shocks, prevent millions of deaths from air pollution, and create millions more jobs. The days of the WEO being used to justify dangerous investments in fossil fuel expansion must be over.”

Carbon Tracker’s Founder and Executive Chairman Mark Campanale told IANS, “Ahead of the most important climate meeting in decades, the IEA has stepped up to the plate to give us real guidance on managing the climate crisis.

“The IEA notes that fossil fuel demand has reached a peak in almost all its scenarios. We stand on the cusp of a new era. Importantly, it sets out what needs to be done beyond existing pledges to reach net zero by mid-century and repeats that there is no need for new investment in oil, gas and coal if we are to stay within 1.5C.”

Christian Aid’s climate policy lead, Kat Kramer, told IANS: “The IEA’s World Energy Outlook gives the world a failing ‘F’ grade in making the energy transition. While it rightly lauds progress on wind, solar, and electric vehicles, the grossly inadequate speed at which the energy transition is currently occurring means that governments, particularly those in richer nations, are failing to reduce their emissions in line with what the science calls for to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C.”

“Governments and industries around the world need to rapidly end the use of all fossil fuels in a way that ensures a just transition for workers and communities, and that ensures that the 1.1 billion people globally that still do not have access to modern energy can leapfrog dirty development pathways.”

For Sharma, four elements for COP26 to deliver the level of ambition are: climate action plans to significantly reduce emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century, and to support adaptation to tackle climate threats.

A concrete action to deliver these plans, include agreements on reducing coal, electric cars, protecting trees and reducing methane emissions, to honour the $100bn dollar pledge to fund climate action and adaptation in developing states, and a negotiated outcome that paves the way for a decade of ever-increasing ambition.