2023 may see peak emission of world focuses on renewable surge

World governments have been told to stop “pulling in the wrong direction” amid estimates that greenhouse gas emissions are likely to peak this year.

A new report published today found that global greenhouse gas emissions may start falling in 2024, if current clean technology trends continue. If maintained, the recent boom in wind and solar would outstrip energy demand growth, forcing fossil fuels out of the energy system. This leads to peak coal in 2023 and gas in 2024. Peak oil would follow in 2025, if current growth rates in electric vehicles are sustained.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that to limit global warming to 1.5°C, global greenhouse emissions need to peak before 2025 at the latest. The new analysis by science and policy institute Climate Analytics builds on International Energy Agency projections of carbon dioxide emissions to find that the IPCC milestone can be met for all greenhouse gases if current growth rates for renewables and electric vehicles are sustained and fossil fuel use is displaced.

“We find the world can peak emissions in time for the IPCC deadline, but only if governments work with the market to support renewables and stop pulling in the wrong direction with fossil funding and subsidies. A peaking commitment at COP28 would send a clear signal that they mean business,” says the report’s author and Climate Analytics’ head of policy Claire Fyson.

The report, which models the continued acceleration of wind, solar and electric vehicle deployment, concludes the roll out of these technologies alone gives a 65%  chance of flipping global emissions into decline. Additional action to curb other greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, results in a 70% chance that a sustained fall in emissions would start in 2024 – even when accounting for year-to-year fluctuations in emissions.

“For years, energy demand growth has outstripped renewables deployment, despite record additions of wind and solar. We’re now approaching the tipping point, where renewables overtake demand growth and start displacing coal, oil and gas. This would mark the beginning of the end for the fossil economy,” says report author and Climate Analytics expert Dr Neil Grant.

A key factor driving the 2023 peak in global emissions is the pace of the energy transition in China. The analysis found China’s solar and wind capacity could reach close to 1500 GW by 2025, meeting its 2030 target of 1200 GW more than five years early. This would flip the country’s power sector and overall economy into long-term emissions decline and place planned coal power projects under high risk of being stranded.

“Despite clear market trends, governments could fast-track or delay the energy transition and peaking date depending on their policy choices,” the report cautioned. “And even if the IPCC peaking milestone is met, steep emissions reductions would need to follow to halve global emissions by 2030 and keep the Paris Agreement goal in reach. By the end of this decade, the world needs to triple renewable capacity, double energy efficiency, and reduce fossil fuel use by 40% to limit warming to 1.5°C.”

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