The end of coal, oil and gas

Stop new oil and gas production, phase out coal by 2030, limit air traffic: the International Energy Agency has a plan for climate neutrality.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has outlined in a report how the world can achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The most important message: With immediate effect, there must be no more new investments in projects for the extraction of coal, oil and gas if this goal is to be achieved.

For the Energy Agency, the report is a clear about-face. In the past, the organization, which was founded after the oil crisis in 1974, has been accused of relying too heavily on fossil fuels and neglecting the potential of renewable energies.

With the report that has now been presented, the IEA is presenting a scenario with which it believes it is possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees – but only with a probability of 50 percent.

The majority of the energy would therefore come from solar and wind energy in the future. Many sectors that are operated directly with fossil fuels today will have to cover their energy needs electrically in the future. Hydrogen would also play an important role, around 20 percent of the electricity would be used to operate hydrogen electrolysers.

Two and a half times as much electricity in 2050

In terms of electricity demand, this would mean that in 2050 it would be two and a half times as large as it is today. Solar and wind energy would have to be expanded quickly – much faster than has been happening so far. From 2030 onwards, 630 gigawatts of solar power and 390 gigawatts of wind power would have to be connected to the grid worldwide. That is about four times as much as last year – and 2020 was already a record year.

Coal-fired power plants are to be shut down in industrialized countries in 2030, worldwide this is to be the case in 2040. The consumption of both coal and oil will drop immediately and will no longer reach the previous maximum values.

The Energy Agency sees an increase in natural gas for a few years, but natural gas consumption is also expected to decrease in the mid-2020s. This would also mean that the idea that natural gas can still play a temporary role in climate protection as a bridging technology would soon be abandoned.

In this scenario, sales of electric cars will increase 18-fold over the next ten years, and by 2035 at the latest, there should be no more new combustion cars worldwide. So-called e-fuels, i.e. fuels produced with the help of electricity, do not play a role in road traffic in the scenario and, due to their high costs, would be used primarily in air traffic. Ammonia is said to play an important role as a fuel in shipping.

The Energy Agency also sees an important role in changes in behaviour, especially in the transport sector. Flights under an hour should be avoided if possible if there are alternative train connections, and long-haul air traffic should not grow above the level of 2019.

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