The peak in global fossil fuel emissions is just around the corner

By Anna Cooban, CNN Business

London CNN Business  —  Global fossil fuel emissions are expected to peak in 2025 as countries commit huge sums of money toward low-carbon fuels, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In its annual World Energy Outlook report, published Thursday, the agency said that Russia’s assault on Ukraine had the potential to “hasten” the global transition to clean energy sources.

The IEA said it expects global investments in low-carbon energy to increase to $2 trillion a year until the end of the decade — up 50% from today’s spending.

“Energy markets and policies have changed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, not just for the time being, but for decades to come,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in the report.

“Government responses around the world promise to make this a historic and definitive turning point towards a cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy system,” he added.

Since the war broke out in late February, many countries have shunned Russia’s vast energy exports, finding new suppliers and ramping up imports of alternate energy sources.

That has put Moscow in a “much-diminished position,” the IEA said, and Russia is on course for its share of global energy exports drop to 13% by 2030 from 20% last year.

Europe — Moscow’s biggest customer for oil and gas — has borne the brunt of the energy crunch. Benchmark natural gas prices have shot up since the invasion, though have dropped steeply in recent weeks thanks to mild temperatures and the bloc’s successful efforts to store gas for winter.

“Russia [has] lost this market forever. And it will be very difficult [for] this Russian oil and gas [to] find a new home as big as Europe, as lucrative as Europe,” Birol told CNN’s Julia Chatterley in an interview on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Birol said that intense competition for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and cuts in oil output by OPEC and its allies had led to “the first truly global energy crisis,” according to a Reuters.

Thursday’s report will be welcomed by those who’ve worried that the crisis has set the world’s climate goals back.

Fears of energy shortages have led some countries in Europe and China to burn more coal this year. Hard coal power generation jumped nearly 15% between March and September in Europe in 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, according to the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services.

Overall, though, growth in coal burning has been “muted” this year, Birol told CNN.

And, for the first time ever, the IEA’s annual forecast sees demand for all fossil fuel to either peak or plateau. Oil is expected to be the last holdout, reaching a plateau by the mid-2030s, the report said.

“Governments are putting real money on the table to accelerate the green energy [transition], not necessarily for environmental, climate reasons, but mainly for energy security reasons,” Birol told CNN.

Despite the flurry of clean energy investment, the agency said that it expects global temperatures to rise by 2.5 Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century — well above the 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) upper limit needed to avert severe consequences for the climate. The world has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution.

Governments will also need to raise their annual clean energy investments to $4 trillion by 2030 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the report said.

“There is still a large gap between today’s pledges and a stabilization of the rise in global temperatures around 1.5°C,” the IEA warned.

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