Are countries transforming their energy production systems to stop the increase in temperatures by 1.5ºC, as required by the Paris Agreement? That question is answered by a new analysis by the organization Climate Action Tracker (CAT), which evaluates progress in 16 countries in terms of fossil gas, coal and renewable energy.
The result shows a balance where the great concern is China, although some signs of hope are also shown.
To track global and national progress towards a decarbonised world, the Climate Action Tracker has established global and country-specific benchmarks consistent with the 1.5˚C target.
Developed countries must phase out coal from their electricity system by 2030 and fossil gas (without CO2 capture systems) by 2035 while developing nations must phase out coal and fossil gas by 2040, according to the dates established by CAT as reference points compatible with the goal to stop the increase in temperatures by 1.5ºC in the electricity sector
Another goal is for all countries to have more than 80% of electricity from renewable energy by 2035 and between 90 and 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050.
The analysis focused on Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, EU27, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.
The result indicates that no country evaluated is completely on track to achieve the necessary changes, but the report detects some positive signs.
First, the US and UK power sector decarbonisation targets for 2035 are in line with the necessary phase-out of fossil gas by that date, but “both countries must do more to achieve this”.
Similarly, the UK is on track to phase out coal by 2024, which corresponds to a 1.5°C compatible timeline, while the EU, Germany, Chile and South Africa are heading in the right direction. Brazil could be on the right path by repealing Bolsonaro-era legislation.
It is also highlighted that Germany and Chile are leading the way in terms of the deployment of renewable energies. While the sector is booming elsewhere (China, India), it is still not fast enough to reach the speed of fossil removal needed.
And, for their part, India and China now have levels compatible with the 1.5ºC target for fossil gas power plants, but both countries need to develop their longer-term phase-out strategies.
The report highlights, however, that there are still many elements to worry about:
Thus, no country analyzed has an explicit plan to phase out fossil gas, and fossil gas production is now more important than the coal pipeline.
Second, global coal production outside China is shrinking, China's wave of permitting for coal plants is a cause for concern. “If this continues, the only way to avoid a significant increase in emissions would be to drastically reduce the use of coal-fired power plants,” the report emphasizes.
Most countries are not doing enough to accelerate the transition to renewable energies, and in this sense the little (or no) brilliant role of Japan and Mexico, which are at the bottom in this field, is cited.
The United Arab Emirates is considering phasing out gas emissions rather than phasing out fossil fuels.
The analysis shows that carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems in thermal plants “will play a minimal role” in fossil gas electricity plants (and none at all in the case of coal).
The report indicates that as the incoming president of the Dubai climate conference, the UAE can have a significant impact on climate ambition by securing a global agreement to phase out fossil gas by 2040 globally and leading by example do it nationally by 2035.
"This month, the G20 agreed on a global renewable energy target. Our nationally focused global benchmark for renewables highlights real opportunities for the expansion of wind and solar energy. Yet governments still seem be hedging their bets and postponing the phase out of fossil fuels," says Neil Grant, lead author of the report, an expert at the organization Climate Analytics, a CAT associate.
"What is also clear from our work is that we find no role for carbon capture and storage systems in a decarbonised energy sector. The future of fossil fuels in an electricity sector transition compatible with the 1.5 ˚C – with or without these systems – is the same: one of rapid decline." Grant added.
Climate Action Tracker added that the key to the developing world meeting the phase-out dates was funding.
"While the handful of 'just energy transition partnerships' are positive, they are not enough," said Hanna Fekete of the Climate Institute, an entity associated with CAT.
"Countries like Morocco, which today rely heavily on coal energy, have enormous renewable energy potential, but unlocking it requires international support."