Even an accelerated clean energy transition will fall short of the effort required to limit global warming to 2 degrees.
That’s the headline finding of a new report by international energy market research firm Wood Mackenzie looking at electricity, mobility, energy efficiency and ongoing demand for oil.
The study compares a base case and a “Carbon-constrained” scenario. Even in a world where 100% of new vehicles in the U.S., EU and China are all electric by 2040, WoodMac forecasts that 2 degrees is beyond reach.
The 2 degrees figure is considered the global average warming that the world’s societies, and economies, could reasonably bear. There were calls for this to set at 1.5. The target is a cornerstone of the UN’s climate process which begins its latest round of negotiations in Katowice, Poland next week.
“The global energy transition will continue to progress, led in large part to technologies and decarbonization trends we’re already seeing in the marketplace – the rise of renewables, growth in electric vehicles, electrification of end-use demand, increasing efficiency,” said David Brown, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie.
That growth in renewables for Wood Mac’s Carbon-constrained scenario is 11% annually until 2035. That leaves wind and solar with a 40% share of electricity production compared to 7% today.
The more ambitious scenarios brings forward the research firm’s Peak Oil date by five years to 2031.
The report flags renewables as the big winner under the more ambitious conditions with coal the unrivaled loser. WoodMac predicts a global halving of demand by 2040, even with an effective carbon pricing mechanism.
The more ambitious scenario relies on certain assumptions and when matched against today’s political reality a lack of urgency is exposed.
Our carbon-constrained scenario pushes the boundaries of our base-case view to illustrate a world where these trends join, and potentially outstrip, policy as a key force behind decarbonisation.
Even with an accelerated pace of change, a ‘2 degree world’ remains out of reach in our accelerated scenario. Much more needs to happen around lowering non-power sector emissions to achieve such an outcome. Political momentum will be crucial and at present climate leadership is lacking.”
A report earlier this week from the German insurance giant Allianz found the U.S. to be sliding down the clean energy rankings among its G20 peers. It dropped to ninth position after cuts to Federal support for wind and solar. Investment for 2017 was $57 billion, one-third of the total needed to align with the commitments set out in the Paris Agreement.
France, Germany and the U.K. took the top three spots respectively.