The "advanced economies" such as the United States and the European Union, will have to advance their carbon neutrality objective by 5 years - from 2050 to 2045, and China by 10 years to 2050, to stay within the nails of the Paris Agreement and thus give the world a chance to limit global warming to +1.5 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial era, said the IEA in a new report.

"The energy sector is changing faster than many think, but much more needs to be done and time is running out," the Paris-based OECD energy agency said.

His report comes just weeks before crucial negotiations at the 28th UN Climate Conference in Dubai, where the future of fossil fuels is expected to be the subject of bitter debate.

This is the update of its "Net Zero Roadmap", a roadmap for carbon neutrality in 2050, whose publication in 2021 had marked the spirits by calling on the world to abandon "now" any new oil or gas project.

"End of the fossil era"

Two years later, what is the outcome? Progress is there, as evidenced by the rapid growth of solar electricity and the electrification of the vehicle fleet, which the IEA says keeps the most ambitious climate goals of the Paris Agreement within reach in 2015.

At the same time, during the last two years, "emissions from the energy sector have remained stubbornly high, reaching a new record of 37 billion tons of CO2 in 2022", 1% more than in 2019, notes the IEA.

Energy: carbon neutrality objectives by level of wealth © Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Sabrina BLANCHARD / AFP

"The path to (the target) 1.5°C has narrowed over the past two years, but the growth of clean energy technologies keeps it open," said the IEA, which also calls for "energy efficiency".

"The development of clean energy is the main factor behind a drop in demand for fossil fuels of more than 25% this decade" and their rise is leading to a 2% drop in CO35 emissions in energy by 2030, according to its updated scenario.

"As COP28 approaches, the latest science is unequivocal: the fossil fuel era is coming to an end," said Laurence Tubiana, President of the European Climate Foundation.

The IEA recently claimed that peak demand for all fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal – will be reached "in the coming years" of the decade, thanks to the leap in cleaner energy and electric cars.

Beware of the slightest delay

"Encouraging" certainly but "not enough to achieve the objective of 1.5 ° C", insists the Agency, stressing that "almost all countries must bring forward their dates of carbon neutrality targets".

"Even a small delay" in reducing emissions beyond their current commitments, "would result in a global temperature above 1.5°C for nearly 50 years," warns the IEA as a recent UN report warned that the goals of the Paris Agreement were threatened by countries' lack of ambition.

But with current warming of about 1.2 degrees compared to the pre-industrial era, the world is already experiencing a rise in destructive climate disasters, hitting vulnerable populations the hardest.

A delay in ambitions would also push countries to make greater use of CO2 capture technologies that are "expensive" and still "unproven on a large scale", says the IEA, thus supporting the growing criticism of these industrial or nature-based technologies promising to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and store it sustainably.

If such technologies fail to achieve the required scale - including filtering 0.1% of the atmosphere each year by 2100 - reducing temperatures to 1.5°C "would not be possible", warns the IEA.

© 2023 AFP