2023 was a year full of various disasters including fires, floods, droughts, cyclones, wars. It has been named as the hottest year in the world. Two days of this year’s temperatures were 2 degrees Celsius higher than during the Industrial Revolution. Despite these disappointing indicators, a section of experts believe that the seeds of a promising future have been planted in the year. They think that the use of fossil fuels has reached a ‘tipping point’ this year. As a result, it will gradually decrease from 2024.
Fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas are the main source of carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide is the most responsible for the warming of the earth’s atmosphere. According to a report of the International Energy Agency (IEA) on December 15, the demand for coal in the world in 2023 has increased by 1.4 percent compared to the previous year. This year, the world used 850 million tons of coal, which is a record. But there is hope, China, America and the European Union (EU) have announced to reduce the use of coal from 2024.
According to a study by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, China accounts for nearly half of the world’s coal consumption each year. As a result, China’s annual carbon emissions alone are greater than the combined emissions of the United States, India and Russia.
But China’s coal consumption will peak in 2023. Therefore, from the year 2024, the consumption of energy in the country will decrease at a significant rate. Because the country is turning to wind and solar power instead of fossil fuels for its growing electricity needs. China produced more wind and solar power than forecast in the outgoing year.
On the other hand, according to the IEA report, in 2024, coal consumption in the US and the EU is expected to decrease by about 20 percent compared to 2023.
However, the IEA could not predict how much Russia, the world’s top four coal consuming country, will reduce the use of energy in the new year. Because if the war in Ukraine continues, coal consumption will continue to increase in the country in the new year.
At the climate conference (Cop-21) held in France in 2015, all countries of the United Nations agreed on some important issues to prevent global warming, known as the Paris Agreement. The core of the agreement is that if global warming is to be kept within the tolerance of humans and other species, it must not be allowed to rise by more than 2 degrees during the current century compared to pre-Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) levels. Ideally, it can be kept within 1.5 degrees. In order to meet this target, the use of fossil fuels must be reduced at a significant rate by 2030. And by 2050 carbon emissions should be reduced to zero.
In early 2023, an IEA report expressed optimism that the use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal would decrease significantly before 2030. The Paris-based intergovernmental IEA is by far the most influential and influential body on energy policy. Launched in 1974, the company has never before made such positive predictions.
According to another report of the organization, the use of renewable energy in the world will increase by 2.3 percent by 2026. Even if the COP or international coalitions cannot adopt a strong policy to increase the use of renewable energy, the use of renewable energy will increase so much. And if strong policies are adopted, the use of renewable energy can increase during this period.
A study by U.S. climate think tank ‘Imber’ at the beginning of the outgoing year showed that the use of solar electricity in the world increased by about 16 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year. And the use of wind power has increased by almost 10 percent.
Analysts consider the announcements from the recently concluded COP-28 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to be very promising. This is the first time in the history of the climate conference that fossil fuels have been identified as a major cause of warming. The declaration therefore recommends a gradual shift away from fossil fuels. It is proposed to triple the use of renewable or clean energy by 2030.
In the words of the president of this year’s conference, Sultan Al-Jaber, ‘the current decade is very important for us. In this decade we need to move our energy management away from fossil fuels. It should be done in a very fair, planned and orderly manner. If done properly, carbon emissions could be reduced to zero by 2050.
Despite the comforting facts and opinions presented in the discussion so far, the opposing facts and arguments are also quite strong. For example, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of America and some recent forecasts of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) can be mentioned.
An EIA report earlier this year said carbon emissions from power plants will continue to rise until 2050. That is, after 2050, the power sector will be able to reduce carbon emissions. However, the Paris Agreement calls for reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Cop is adopting various policies for this purpose.
On the other hand, an OPEC report said that the global demand for fuel oil will continue to increase until 2045. However, it will increase at a lower rate than in recent times.
An analysis of the British daily Guardian about the forecast of OPEC said that organizations like OPEC are promoting that they will increase the demand for oil to protect their own interests. Because the main driving force of the OPEC countries is oil and gas so far. So they spread a propaganda that the demand for fossil fuels like fuel oil is increasing.
In any case, how much the use of fossil fuels will decrease in the current decade and how much the use of renewable energy will increase depends on the specific policies of the international community and governments, experts believe.
Claire Faison, senior researcher at Climate Analytics, a German-based climate organization, told the Guardian that reducing carbon emissions depends on the current trend of increasing the use of renewable energy and electric vehicles. To sustain the current trend, the government needs to adopt policies to increase the use of renewable energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Without a strong policy and its implementation, it is impossible to achieve the target.
References: Guardian, Reuters, Al Jazeera, CBS News