Despite significant gains in both large scale solar and wind energy throughout the globe, a new report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that the rapid uptake of renewables is not enough to stop global warming. The goal of keeping global temperatures from rising above two degrees celsius – considered by scientists to be crucial to maintaining some kind of normality – is still a long way off, because most of the world’s energy is still derived from coal.
“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” said Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s executive director, at the launch of the agency’s report on clean energy progress. This warning echoes a 2011 report in which the same agency said irreversible climate change is inevitable if infrastructure is not updated.
“Despite much talk by world leaders, and a boom in renewable energy over the past decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago.”
Even though it seems that we are producing more clean energy now than ever before, in the first quarter of 2013 new renewable energy projects fell to their lowest level in four years, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, coal-fired generation almost doubled last decade. The United States relies more on shale than coal, though whether or not that is better for the environment is still under debate.
Carbon Capture and Storage Technology (CCS), a wildly unpopular scheme among environmentalists who believe burying carbon enables our continued addiction to fossil fuel, is critical to stemming carbon emissions, according to the IEA. Yet there are only 17 large facilities worldwide that have a combined capacity of capturing 72 million tons of CO2 emissions. Nuclear and biofuel production also falls short of where it needs to be, the IEA added.
In order to have a meaningful impact on global warming, governments need to step up their mitigation policies and the EU trading scheme needs to mature, the IEA warned.
“Unless we get (carbon emissions) prices and policies right, a cost-effective clean-energy transition just will not happen.”