The International Energy Agency’s first attempt at a long-term scenario to keep average global warming “well below” 2°C allows an extra 180 gigatonnes of emissions between 2015 and 2050, the equivalent of 1,500 coal plants, Oil Change International Senior Advisor Greg Muttitt argues in a post on The Energy Collective.
The IEA’s work starts with the same 880-Gt emissions limit that Oil Change used in its blockbuster Sky’s Limit report last fall. But “the IEA then does three things that inflate the space for fossil fuels within that budget,” Muttitt writes. It understates non-fossil emissions sources like cement production and land use, makes the unlikely assumption of a major breakthrough in carbon capture and storage (CCS), and “allocates a disproportionate share of the carbon budget to the pre-2050 period”, postponing deeper emission cuts beyond the study period.
“Without these distortions, the IEA would reach the same conclusion that we did in The Sky’s Limit: that there is no room for new fossil fuel development,” Muttitt adds. “Instead, it calls for new investment in fossil fuels—including $200 billion a year of investment in fossil fuel extraction as late as 2050—investment that will either be wasted or will drive devastating climate change.”
The problem with IEA getting its calculations wrong is that they drive energy policy-making around the world. “Governments and investors routinely use IEA scenarios to inform energy decisions,” Muttitt notes. Which means it’s “time for the IEA to come clean. First, the IEA must drop its outdated 450 Scenario and replace it with one in line with Paris. Second, it must fix these distortions, to give a clear picture of the action that’s really needed.”