World will need to deliver affordable decarbonisation of major industries to hit climate target

Oil giant ExxonMobil has warned the world is in real danger of failing in its efforts to restrict global warming to 2°C by its 2050 target, as it seeks to balance a sharp drop in emissions with a huge spike in energy demand.

The company has issued its Global Outlook which warned the fight against climate change is currently looking like an uphill battle.

The Global Outlook said that the biggest change in the world’s energy mix between now and 2050 will be a significant increase in solar and wind, along with a significant reduction in coal.

“Energy from solar and wind is projected to more than quintuple, from 2% of the world’s supply to 11%,” It added. “Coal will increasingly be displaced by lower-emission sources of electricity production – not just renewables but also natural gas, which has about half the carbon intensity of coal.

“Overall, electricity use grows 80% by 2050. Oil and natural gas are projected to still make up more than half of the world’s energy supply. The utility of oil and natural gas in meeting the world’s needs remains unmatched.”

The energy giant added: “They are energy dense, portable, available, and affordable — and serve as essential raw materials for many products we use today. Given that oil and natural gas are projected to remain a critical component of a global energy system through 2050, sustained investments are essential to offset depletion as production naturally declines by 5-7% per year.

“Oil use is expected to decline significantly in personal transportation but will remain essential for the industrial processes and heavy-duty transport like shipping, long-haul trucking, and aviation that underpin economic growth.

“Consider: If every new passenger car sold in the world in 2035 were an electric vehicle, oil demand in 2050 would still be 85 million barrels per day, the same as it was around 2010. Natural gas use is projected to increase by more than 20% by 2050 given its utility as a reliable and lower-emissions source of fuel for electricity generation, hydrogen production, and heating for both industrial processes and buildings.”

However ExxonMobil warned the world would need to rapidly increase its efforts if it was to have any change to meet its climate targets.

“Even in a higher-energy future, the rise of renewables, decline of coal, and improvements in energy efficiency mean the world will produce far fewer carbon emissions than it does today,” the outlook added. “Overall, energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to peak at more than 34 billion metric tons sometime this decade and then decline to 25 billion metric tons in 2050.

“The world’s ability to reduce these emissions by 25%, even as the global economy grows by more than 100%, is a testament to the significant progress expected to be made. Even so, more is needed to hit the emission-reduction levels required to keep global temperature increases below 2°C.

“The average of the IPCC’s Lower 2°C scenarios requires emissions to fall to around 11 billion metric tons by 2050. Because energy demand will increase in 2050 to support the economic growth of the world’s developing nations, an abundant supply of energy-dense fuels will remain imperative.

“Fossil fuels remain the most effective way to produce the massive amounts of energy needed to create and support the manufacturing, commercial transportation, and industrial sectors that drive modern economies. For this reason, a critical goal of any energy transition will be the affordable decarbonisation of these economic sectors that account for half of all energy-related emissions.”

The company added: “An energy transition is underway, but it is not yet happening at the scale or on the timetable required to achieve society’s net-zero ambitions.”.

It concluded: “Ultimately, to achieve global emission-reduction goals, the world will need to move to widespread adoption of markets where society as a whole incentivizes driving emissions down. The world has made meaningful progress.

“Even with ongoing economic development, the emissions intensity of the world’s energy supply has declined since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016. On the policy front, incentives for wind and solar catalysed rapid deployment and cost reductions.

“Technologically, breakthroughs in shale enabled natural gas to disrupt and displace coal. And new markets for solar were created for both residential and utility-scale.

“Given the need to do more and do it faster at a lower cost, progress will need to occur in parallel, supported by policies that are technology-agnostic and incentivize all approaches, equally. Multiple approaches, nurtured by public-private partnerships and cross-industry collaboration, will be needed.”