LAUNCESTON, Australia, Nov 14 (Reuters) - One thing becomes absolutely clear when reading the IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook; if the world is to have even the remotest chance of making its climate goals, then China and India are going to have to do something about their coal use.
The International Energy Agency’s report said coal is responsible for 30% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, making it the biggest single contributor.
If the world is to limit the increase in temperature as a result of climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s clear that coal consumption will have to be reduced far more dramatically than is currently forecast.
The IEA report outlined three scenarios for energy use up until 2040, namely current policies, stated policies and the sustainable development scenario.
The latter two are the more important as stated policies refers to what is likely to happen on the basis of announced government policies and plans, and sustainable development is the path needed to meet the climate goals.
Coal was responsible for 14.66 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in 2018, and the IEA said that under the stated policies scenario this will only drop slightly to 14.34 billion in 2030 and 13.89 billion in 2040.
However, the sustainable development path calls for coal’s carbon emissions to plunge to 8.28 billion tonnes by 2030 and 3.4 billion by 2040.
The gap by 2040 between the stated policies and the sustainable development is a massive 11.24 billion tonnes, which to put in context is almost the total amount of carbon emissions created in 2018 by using crude oil, and almost 60% higher than the emissions from natural gas.
If the world is to move to the sustainable development scenario, it means a dramatic shift away from coal and towards renewable energy across the globe.
But in practical terms, the future of coal is largely in the hands of just two countries, China and India, which currently account for 60.2% of global electricity generated by the polluting fuel, according to data from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
CHINA, INDIA ARE COAL
The United States accounts for 11.1% and the European Union for 5.2%, but coal burning is declining rapidly in both, mainly as a result of cheap natural gas in the United States and the rising penetration of renewables in Europe.
The IEA said that under its stated policies scenario China’s coal use goes from 2.83 billion tonnes of coal equivalent to 2.84 billion in 2030 and 2.57 billion by 2040, but under the sustainable development path it would need to drop to 2.07 billion by 2030 and 1.15 billion by 2040.
India’s demand was 586 million tonnes of coal equivalent in 2018, and the IEA forecasts this to rise to 938 million by 2030 and 1.16 billion by 2040 under the stated policies scenario, but to meet the sustainable development scenario it would need to be 546 million.
What the IEA suggests is that India effectively needs to limit its coal demand to current levels, and China will have to cut its consumption by some 60% by 2040.