The growing demand for SUVs would increase the demand for oil until 2040, and climate-damaging emissions will also continue coupled with that, the global energy watchdog has warned in climate forecast for the next two decades.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the increasing demand for SUVs in the US, China, Europe, and elsewhere could make all the environmental benefits of the increased electric car usage ineffective. It is tough to electrify SUVs because of their size.
In the annual global industry forecast, the IEA also cited a growing demand for plastic, an increase in air travel, and the ensuing population boom in cities across Africa and Asia as crucial contributing factors in increasing oil demand.
World Energy Outlook of the current year was released on Wednesday, which is used as guidance by oil companies and governments. The watchdog had already revealed some of its findings before the publication and warned that a “grand coalition” of governments and investors was required for bringing an end to the upward march of record energy emissions rising beyond 2040.
Considering the growing pressure from young activists like Greta Thunberg and others for more stringent action on emissions, the forecast of this year took a stronger stand on climate change than usual.
It urges governments to work together to change the way we fuel our lives and celebrates a boom in solar and wind power. It pointed towards gas-guzzling SUVs for criticism.
SUVs “were the second biggest reason for global emissions growth in last 10 years, after the power sector and more than all the industrial sectors put together”, IEA director Fatih Birol told reporters on Wednesday in Paris.
As per industry reports, the demand for energy-intensive SUVs and pickup trucks is about two-thirds of total car sales in the US and one-third in the EU, and they are steadily growing in demand in Europe. Nearly 42% of cars sold last year worldwide, were SUVs, Birol said.
The World Energy Outlook is increasingly important to governments as it focuses on forecasting energy needs over the next 20 years and also because of its relevance to climate policy.
Environmental advocates are not happy with the role of IEA in encouraging renewable energy. Oil Change International especially criticized the IEA’s “over-reliance” on natural gas as a replacement for coal, and according to them, that would lead to “climate chaos” because gas also contributes to emissions.
The report comes at the same time when Venice is struggling with floods hitting their second-highest level this week, inundating St. Mark’s basilica and grounding gondolas. The mayor of the city has blamed on climate change.
The IEA said that last year, almost 20% of the growth in global energy usage was “due to hotter summers pushing up demand for cooling and cold snaps leading to higher heating needs.”
The IEA forecasts a global oil demand based on emissions promises currently made by governments, and it would be 106.4 million barrels a day in 2040, up from 96.9 million last year. The demand for global oil is due to slow down in the 2030s, and there will be shrinking coal use slightly. Emissions will continue to increase if more slowly than today, and will not reach its peak until 2040.
Last year, the leading source of increasing oil demand was the US consumers and businesses, the IEA said, and the US will account for 85% of the increase in the production of global oil by 2030, credit goes to the shale boom.
When Birol was asked about his opinion on President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, he said: “As a global issue, it’s important to have concerted efforts to address climate change.”
For meeting the target set in the 2015 UN climate accord, the report lays out a more ambitious forecast for governments. A big boost is required in the wind and solar power, the IEA said, and a push for energy efficiency that has slowed down in recent years.
In Asia, it would require to work on new coal plants to capture emissions from them or closing them early in the more ambitious scenario.
All that would lead to a significant drop in oil demand, along with repercussions for oil-producing countries that rely heavily on hydrocarbon income.
In the meanwhile, to attract global attention to individuals’ impact on climate change, Thunberg announced her return to Europe soon from North America on a catamaran that leaves almost no carbon footprint.
While the IEA acknowledged that such movements and individual decisions by companies and investors “can make a major difference,” it insisted that “governments must take the lead … the greatest capacity to shape our energy destiny lies with governments.”