IEA report predicts peak CO2 emissions by 2025

The rapid expansion of clean energy, electric cars and heat pumps means that energy-related CO2 emissions could peak by 2025, according to the International Energy Agency.

Adobe Stock

In its World Energy Outlook 2023 (WEO-23), the IEA describes how the 2030 energy system will be significantly different from that of today, based on existing policies and trends alone. The report predicts that the number of electric cars will have increased tenfold and that renewables will make up close to 50 per cent of the global electricity mix, up from around 30 per cent currently. Rapid expansion of solar PV will see it generating more electricity than the entire US power system does today.

According to the IEA, the transition will mean that fossil fuel demand will peak this decade. The share of hydrocarbons in global energy supply has been stuck for decades at around 80 per cent. This is expected to decline to 73 per cent by 2030, with global carbon dioxide emissions peaking by 2025.

“The transition to clean energy is happening worldwide and it’s unstoppable,” said IEA executive director, Fatih Birol. “It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘how soon’ – and the sooner the better for all of us.”

Despite the encouraging progress being made in several areas, the IEA report makes it clear that the world is still a long way off the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Bending the emissions curve onto a path consistent with 1.5°C remains ‘possible but very difficult’. Policy decisions in place today are consistent with approximately 2.4°C of warming this century, according to the IEA. As a result, the agency urged an increase in decarbonisation efforts, rather than the rolling back of targets as seen in countries such as the UK.

“Governments, companies and investors need to get behind clean energy transitions rather than hindering them,” said Dr Birol.

“There are immense benefits on offer, including new industrial opportunities and jobs, greater energy security, cleaner air, universal energy access and a safer climate for everyone. Taking into account the ongoing strains and volatility in traditional energy markets today, claims that oil and gas represent safe or secure choices for the world’s energy and climate future look weaker than ever.”

The WEO-2023 proposes a global strategy for getting the world on track by 2030 that consists of five key pillars, which the IEA says could also provide the basis for COP28 talks. They are:

  • Tripling global renewable capacity
  • Doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements
  • Slashing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by 75 per cent
  • Innovative, large-scale financing mechanisms to triple clean energy investments in emerging and developing economies
  • Measures to ensure an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels, including an end to new approvals of unabated coal-fired power plants

“Every country needs to find its own pathway, but international cooperation is crucial for accelerating clean energy transitions,” said Dr Birol. “In particular, the speed at which emissions decline will hinge in large part on our ability to finance sustainable solutions to meet rising energy demand from the world’s fast growing economies. This all points to the vital importance of redoubling collaboration and cooperation, not retreating from them.”