The tipping point on the path to a low-carbon energy future is just four years away, a new report out Friday said.
Importantly, hitting that mark will require potentially long-shot policies of sharply reducing coal use in China and natural gas use in the U.S., according to the S&P Global Sustainable1 report.
Overall the world must move faster to curb emissions and show concrete progress by 2025 or risk overshooting the 2-degrees global warming limitation set as part of the Paris climate pact in 2015, said the report, which was issued in association with New York Climate Week and draws from analysis from S&P Global Platts Analytics. The report adds to the steady stream of research and rhetoric ahead of a key climate conference in Glasgow in November.
Almost all energy end-use sectors, ranging from heavy industry to transport, would need to cut annual emissions by 2025 relative to 2019 levels under the 2-degree outlook.
Ahead of the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting this week, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned governments that climate change is proceeding faster than predicted and fossil fuel emissions have already bounced back from a pandemic dip. He emphasized that recent extreme weather — from Hurricane Ida in the United States to floods in western Europe and the deadly heatwave in the Pacific Northwest — is a hard reminder that no country is safe from climate-related disasters.
He pushed for action to reach the more aggressive warming limitation set in Paris. “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we will be unable to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit),” said Guterres. “The consequences will be catastrophic.”
The CO2 emissions cuts needed in the near term are not uniform across all geographies or sectors, the S&P Platts report said. For example, under the 2-degree outlook, the world would need to reduce annual emissions from fossil fuel combustion by over 50% by 2050, but when those required emissions cuts are modelled at the country level, a varied picture emerges based on the age of the underlying asset base, economic imperatives and long-term policy targets.
China, on the other hand, with a national ambition to double GDP within the next decade and a half, would only see a 6% decrease in emissions from coal under the Platts 2-degree outlook.
Yet the chances of either China reducing emissions from coal or the U.S. curbing natural gas emissions by 2025 appear to be low, the analysts said. The U.S. has leaned on natural gas in its pursuit of energy independence from the Middle East and Russia.
On its current trajectory, China is expected to increase its coal-related emissions over the next four years by about 4% due to strong growth in demand for electricit, Friday’s report said.
This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the U.N. that his country, the world’s largest polluter, “will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”
The pledge by the leading producer and consumer of coal-fired energy did not include domestic production. Still, it could be pivotal in helping secure broad agreement on meaningful climate-change action at the Glasgow meetings.
The U.S.,meanwhile, is currently on track to increase natural-gas related carbon emissions by about 5% by 2025, the S&P Platts model shows. Most of those natural gas-related emissions gains are linked to emissions from the industrial sector as well as gas used by the energy industry across extraction, processing, refining and liquefaction.