May 18, 2021
IEA’s first 1.5°C-aligned scenario bolsters call for no new fossil fuel extraction
IEA must now make it central to its flagship WEO and fix remaining model flaws
Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a special report, “Net Zero in 2050: A roadmap for the global energy system,” that represents the agency’s first ever effort to model a comprehensive energy pathway towards limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). While concerns remain over some of the IEA’s modelling choices, campaigners are welcoming the report as a milestone towards IEA reform.
Through the #FixTheWEO campaign, climate advocates, investors, businesses, and diplomats have been urging the IEA for years to align its influential annual World Energy Outlook (WEO) with the full ambition of the Paris Agreement goals. In a key win, IEA director Dr. Fatih Birol committed for the first time last week that the new 1.5°C-aligned scenario will be “integral” to WEO 2021 and made a permanent fixture of future WEOs.
Critically, the 1.5°C-aligned scenario finds “no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply.” This represents a break from past IEA reports that boosted new oil and gas development by focusing on scenarios that steered the world towards catastrophic levels of warming.
As next steps towards reform, energy analysts are calling on the IEA to transform the WEO to focus on 1.5°C-aligned policies and investments and fix persistent modelling flaws. The new scenario continues to underestimate wind and solar while overselling riskier, more polluting alternatives.
In response to today’s special report, Oil Change International experts released the following statements:
Kelly Trout, Interim Energy Transitions and Futures Program Director, said:
“It’s huge to have the world’s most influential energy modellers bolstering the global call to stop licensing and financing new fossil fuel extraction. Governments, banks, and Big Oil and Gas companies can no longer use the IEA as a shield to claim that their support for fossil fuel expansion is consistent with the Paris Agreement. The IEA’s own modelling now shows new oil and gas fields are not compatible with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.
“However, the IEA still has a ways to go to cast off its fossil fuel roots and prove itself a credible global advisor on climate. If the IEA is serious about steering the world towards a 1.5?C-aligned future, it must put 1.5?C at the heart of all its analysis and communications moving forward.
“Today’s report should herald the end of any excuses for continued fossil fuel expansion. We should never see another IEA report that claims investment in new oil and gas supply is ‘needed.’”
David Tong, Senior Campaigner, said:
“Today’s report is a tremendous win for climate advocates who have been demanding that the IEA align its analysis and communications with the critical 1.5?C limit. While we applaud the IEA for taking this step, they can rest assured that advocates will continue pushing for the institution to complete the job.
“The IEA needs to fix the flaws in this report by prioritising truly clean technologies, and thrust that fixed scenario into the center of the 2021 World Energy Outlook. By continuing to underestimate wind and solar potential, the IEA is still encouraging dangerous levels of reliance on carbon capture and storage, fossil gas, and bioenergy, technologies favored by polluting industries but harmful for people.
“Gambling the climate on a 4,000 percent increase in carbon capture and storage by 2030 is extraordinarily risky and, the IEA’s own analysis shows, not necessary. Instead of banking on a consistently underperforming and still polluting technology, the IEA should be accelerating the phase-out of fossil gas and coal by relying on proven wind and solar solutions.
“We need the IEA to be a beacon pointing the way to a truly clean, Paris-aligned future. With today’s report, that light is starting to appear, but it is not yet shining as bright as it must.”
Notes for editors:
- OCI Briefing: “Getting On Track to 1.5°C: The IEA’s Opportunity to Steer Investments towards Success in Meeting the Paris Goals,” March 2021
- OCI Response to IEA-COP26 Net Zero Summit, March 2021: https://priceofoil.org/2021/03/31/iea-net-zero-summit-press-release/
- OCI Response to Jan. 2021 announcement of IEA’s plans for today’s net zero report: https://priceofoil.org/2021/01/11/response-iea-commits-full-1-5c-aligned-net-zero-scenario/
- Coalition website with additional resources: FixTheWEO.org