The world has to wean itself off fossil fuels by 2040 to stop warming at 1.5 °C

End emissions by 2040 if 1.5°C goal to be achieved

Image credit: PA

The world will have to completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector by 2040 if it wants to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 °C, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.

Limiting the average temperature increase to 1.5°C is the ultimate goal outlined in the Paris climate change treaty, which entered into force on 4 November.

But the IEA warns that the world would have to hasten the switch to cleaner energies if it wants to stand a chance of achieving the target.

“The unavoidable conclusion is that there is an urgent need for immediate radical reductions in energy sector CO2 emissions if there is to be any chance of achieving the 1.5°C goal,” the IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2016.

Some 90 per cent of electricity production would have to come from CO2-free resources, either from nuclear power generation or renewables. The remaining gas-fired power plants would have to be equipped with carbon capture technology to prevent the greenhouse gas from escaping into the atmosphere.

Moreover, all passenger and light-commercial vehicles would need to be electric, with efforts well on track to electrify also buses and heavy goods vehicles.

According to available estimates, only 1.3 million out of a global stock of nearly 1 billion cars would be powered by electricity by the end of 2016.

The intense measures are necessary as the world has already warmed up 1.2°C since the pre-industrial times, the World Meteorological Organization announced this week.

The signatories of the Paris climate change treaty have formally agreed to limit the temperature rises to ‘well below 2°C’ and to ‘pursue efforts’ to stop the warming at 1.5°C.

The tighter goal was advocated by low-lying countries such as the Maldives and the Marshall Islands, which are already threatened by the rising sea levels.

Scientists say warming must be kept below 2 degrees by the end of the century to stave off the worst effects of climate change such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

The IEA has released the World Energy Outlook during the meeting of nations supporting the climate deal in Morocco.

The world’s global warming battle, which has celebrated a major success previously with the Paris treaty entering into force years ahead of schedule, is now facing uncertainty due to the climate change-denying stance of the US President-elect Donald Trump.

Sources in Trump’s team have hinted the Republican might seek a quick exit from the deal as he aims to promote the US oil and gas sector.

Current US Secretary of State, Democrat John Kerry, reassured audiences in the Moroccan city of Marrakech that an ‘overwhelming majority’ of Americans knows that climate change is happening and want their country to honour its commitments under the Paris climate agreement.

With 2016 on track to be the hottest year on record, Mr Kerry said the impacts of global warming are so evident that ‘at some point, even the strongest sceptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening.

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