31 October 2019

Nathan Lemphers, nathan [at] priceofoil [dot] org
David Turnbull, david[ at] priceofoil [dot] org

New Briefing: IEA Ignores Climate Reality with Industry-Friendly Outlook for Gas

With its over reliance on natural gas, the International Energy Agency’s flagship World Energy Outlook (WEO) promotes an energy scenario that will exhaust a global 1.5°C carbon budget by the early 2030s, a new briefing note out today from Oil Change International (OCI) exposes.

The Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), despite its name, only limits warming to 1.7 to 1.8°C, the briefing highlights. A year after the IPCC special report on 1.5°C exposed how damaging warming at these levels or beyond will be, advocates are calling on the IEA to chart a path to safer levels of warming with greater certainty.

By promoting increased fossil gas use in its model, the IEA ignores the limitations of emission reductions in coal-to-gas switching, particularly given methane leakage that has become better understood in recent years. Further, the modeling of increased gas use casts aside the rise of disruptive renewable energy and grid management technologies, while suggesting a locking-in of future emissions from new gas infrastructure for years to come.

“By promoting an increase in gas production as part of their so-called Sustainable Development Scenario, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook is full of hot air,” said OCI Senior Campaigner and briefing author Nathan Lemphers. “The IEA urgently needs to reform its scenarios to ensure full alignment with the Paris goals of limiting warming to 1.5°C. That means taking a clear-eyed view of gas as a bridge to nowhere but climate chaos, and a precautionary approach to negative emissions.”

The briefing note outlines three key recommendations for the IEA to pursue in order to better map out a sustainable energy pathway. They include:

  1. Align the Sustainable Development Scenario with the Paris goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C and adopt a precautionary approach to the use of negative emissions technologies;
  2. Align IEA communications and policy recommendations on gas production and consumption with the implications of a fully Paris-aligned scenario; and 
  3. Focus the WEO on a strengthened version of the Sustainable Development Scenario, instead of the business-as-usual path (formerly the New Policies Scenario, now expected to be named the Stated Policies Scenario) which ensures climate collapse.

The briefing comes on the same day as advocates launched a new website – – to raise public attention to the failings of the IEA and to call on the agency to take the recommended steps to reform the WEO.

“The IEA has a gas problem and the implications for our global efforts to tackle the climate crisis are massive. Investors, scientists, thought leaders, and activists are all calling on the IEA to correct course,” OCI’s Lemphers said. “We have too little time to waste and too much at stake to continue status quo energy modeling that ignores our climate realities. It’s time to ditch gas and fix the WEO now.”

The briefing, entitled, “Risky Wager: The IEA’s Bet on Fossil Gas and the Need for WEO Reform” can be found at