Climate summit forced to confront inconvenient truths

Movement to reduce global emissions toward net-zero is still too slow

Rashid Husain SyedWith the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow scheduled to open on Oct. 31, global powerhouses are coming up with their annual energy outlooks earlier than the customary November.

With climate issues coming to the forefront at the COP26 summit, most of these reports and analyses are meant to help world leaders make decisions.

But some report conclusions are conflicting.

A new energy economy is emerging around the world as solar, wind, electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies flourish.

But as the pivotal moment of COP26 approaches, the World Energy Outlook 2021 (WEO’ 21) compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA) makes it clear that the movement towards clean energy, to put global emissions into sustained decline toward net-zero, is still too slow.

The document underlines the need for an unmistakable signal by world leaders of swift and irreversible actions to tackle global climate concerns.

Click here to downloadWEO ’21 also warns that even though solar and wind energy are gaining traction, global coal consumption has snowballed this year, pushing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions towards their second-largest annual increase in history.

“The world’s hugely encouraging clean-energy momentum is running up against the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Governments need to resolve this at COP26 by giving a clear and unmistakable signal that they are committed to rapidly scaling up clean and resilient technologies of the future.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in its International Energy Outlook 2021 (IEO’ 21), warns that if there aren’t significant changes in policy and technology, global energy consumption will increase by nearly 50 per cent over the next 30 years. In that case, the report projects petroleum and other liquid fuels will remain the world’s largest energy sources, even in 2050, while renewable energy sources will grow to nearly the same level.

The EIA also projects that global use of petroleum and other liquids will return to pre-pandemic (2019) levels by 2023, driven entirely by growth in non-Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) energy consumption.

On the other hand, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reduced its consumption forecasts for the remainder of the year and projects 2021 global oil demand will grow by only 5.8 million barrels per day (bpd) from the low 2020 levels. This is a little below the OPEC estimate last month of 5.96-million-bpd annual growth.

In its closely-watched Monthly Oil Market Report released last week, OPEC kept its 2022 forecast of oil demand growth unchanged at 4.2 million bpd and said average total global demand would be 100.8 million bpd next year.

Last month, OPEC raised its 2022 oil demand forecast by 900,000 bpd, expecting the surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant to delay the demand recovery into next year when it sees robust economic growth and stronger recovery in fuel consumption.

And while the world is looking to leaders for concrete action on climate change, the possibility that Chinese President XI Jinping may not attend the summit is dampening some spirits.

The United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union are embarking on a frantic round of climate diplomacy in a last-ditch attempt to bring key countries into a deal on greenhouse gas emissions before COP26, the Guardian reported.

Alok Sharma, the U.K. cabinet minister who will preside over the talks, has meetings planned with representatives of China after questions were raised about whether Xi would attend. Sharma is also meeting with representatives of other G20 big carbon-emitting nations that have yet to produce plans to cut emissions.

The world is at crossroads; future generations are at stake and civilization is under threat. Global leaders need to look seriously at the various analyses compiled by energy powerhouses.

Toronto-based Rashid Husain Syed is a respected energy and political analyst. The Middle East is his area of focus. As well as writing for major local and global newspapers, Rashid is also a regular speaker at major international conferences. He has been asked to provide his perspective on global energy issues by both the Department of Energy in Washington and the International Energy Agency in Paris. For interview requests, click here.


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