Last week, a side event co-organised by the UNFCCC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) entitled ‘Energy Sector Pathways to 1.5 Degrees’ was held in Bonn, which revealed that the energy sector is not ready to meet the Paris Agreement target. In fact, current national energy policies would lead to a rise in global temperatures to 2.5°C in 2100, even 1°C degree above the Paris Agreement target. Both ambition and implementation, therefore, need to be urgently reinforced. 

If the commitments (pledges) announced by countries were also factored into the calculation, and if these were concretely transformed into policies and NDCs, then global temperatures would reach 1.7°C by the end of the century.

(Image presented by the IEA during the side event in Bonn)

Bernd Hackmann, representative of the UNFCCC intervened and explained, in a dejected voice, how we are also a long way from the scenario of limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C. We are not where we should be and the ambition gap is worrying.

The NDC Synthesis Report 2022 estimates that with current NDCs, global emissions in 2030 will reach 52.4 Gt CO2 equivalent. This would result in a 0.3% reduction in emissions compared to 2019 emissions. In contrast, the IPCC tells us that to stay below 1.5°C by the end of the century, we need to reduce emissions by 43% compared to 2019. The current emissions gap is, therefore, an unacceptable 42%. 

And in this scenario, energy plays a key role. 

At COP 27 last year, for the first time a paragraph in the final decision was dedicated to the topic of energy. The text emphasises the urgent need for immediate, rapid, and sustained reductions in global emissions in all sectors, including through the increase of renewable and low-emission energies

Furthermore, just before the start of the interim negotiations on 3 and 4 June, the Global Dialogue under the Mitigation Work Programme launched in Sharm-el-Sheikh last November was held, with the aim of increasing the ambition of global mitigation and its implementation. The same Mitigation Work Programme on which the G77 countries plus China have been stonewalling because they find it paradoxical to talk about new money to be spent on reducing emissions when developed countries do not agree to consider their historical responsibilities as we have explained here. 

The UNFCCC recalled how the main theme of 2023 under the MWP will be accelerating just energy transition, with the focus of the discussion centred on opportunities and solutions, but also on both technological and financial obstacles. 

Indeed, the UNFCCC recalled that it is not just about a technological energy transition, but that an inclusive and just transition is needed, where the issue of energy access is central.

The growth of investment in renewable energy is strong – this year investments in solar surpassed those in fossil fuels – but it is not evenly distributed among countries. Ninety per cent of investments in renewables are in developed countries and China, which holds the lead with more than $170 billion in investments by 2022, followed by the European Union (around $150 billion) and the United States (less than $100 billion). But in the global south, investments are insufficient and in countries such as Russia and some Southeast Asian countries, investments are even in the negative figures.  

The UNFCCC also cited the Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) Synthesis report and how the Paris Agreement states that all Parties must prepare and communicate long-term low-emission development strategies. 

In both the final decisions of COP26 Glasgow and COP27 last year, Parties were urgently urged to communicate their long-term development strategies for a just transition to zero emissions to be achieved by or around 2050 and to align NDCs with these long-term strategies. 

The LT-LEDS synthesis report analyses information from the most recent 53 LT-LEDS (long-term low-emission development strategies) representing 62 Parties to the Paris Agreement, submitted last year before COP 27. The Parties that communicated the LT-LEDS together represent 83% of global GDP, 47% of the world’s population and around 69% of total energy consumption in 2019.

The LT-LEDS contained information on, among others, industry energy efficiency (91%) and solar energy (91%).

Despite the uncertainty related to technological development, energy prices and international trade patterns in the long term, many LT-LEDs included one or more quantitative targets in relation to energy sources with a specific time horizon to reflect the objectives of their long-term strategies in short-term actions, e.g: 45 per cent referred to targets on renewables at 2027, 2035, 2040 and 2050, and 32 per cent referred to a target of reaching 100 per cent renewables;

Several plans included investments in electric transport and clean energy vehicles.

Many LT-LEDS have highlighted the commitment for new buildings to be near-zero energy. Recall that the IPCC in its Special Report on Global Warming identified near-zero energy new buildings as central to aligning global emissions trajectories to 1.5 ℃.

Furthermore, the LT-LEDS Report shows that more than half (57%) of the countries that submitted their LT-LEDS emphasised a commitment to a just transition and one third elaborated on the concept in a dedicated chapter. More generally, almost 80% of the strategies submitted had some reference to the theme of just transition with the use of words such as fairness, equity and inclusion. 

The IEA closed by mentioning that it will publish a report on the energy sector’s progress on climate change in September ahead of COP28. A report that could contribute to the work of the Stocktake to be held in Dubai in December and which is being debated in these weeks in Bonn, as we have explained here. 

Article by Margherita Barbieri, ICN Volunteer

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