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IEA's 'World Energy Outlook' Does Not Look Good for Planet

Latest annual survey predicts world's failed energy strategies have long life ahead

- Jon Queally, staff writer

By propping up the fossil fuel industry with lavish public subsidies, allowing increasingly risky extraction projects, ignoring the potential of energy conservation, and inadequately funding the needed transition to renewable technologies, the world's government's will fail to keep global temperatures from staying within agreed-to limits this century, says the International Energy Agency.

Though nations have agreed that a 2ºC rise is the global target in order to prevent the worst impact of carbon-fueled climate change by 2100, the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook report, released Tuesday, predicts that the planet will likely face an increase of 3.6ºC fueled by industrial emissions that will grow by a troubling 20% by 2035.

The report also looked closely at the role of "extreme energy sources"—previously hard to reach deposits of oil and gas that because of rising energy prices and new technologies have now become financial viable for extraction by industry. Epitomized by tar sands oil in Canada, the fracking boom in the United States, and the attempt by oil and gas giants to drill deeper or in offshore areas—such as the Arctic—that were previously impossible.

Designed as a survey and comprehensive report for policy makers and financial investors, the IEA's annual energy outlook reports offer a cold assessment of trends within the fossil fuel industry and their projections are taken seriously by both energy producers and governments.

According to the executive summary:

In our central scenario, taking into account the impact of measures already announced by governments to improve energy efficiency, support renewables, reduce fossil-fuel subsidies and, in some cases, to put a price on carbon, energy-related CO2 emissions still rise by 20% to 2035. This leaves the world on a trajectory consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6°C, far above the internationally agreed 2°C target.

One of the key problems that will lead to this increase, according to the report, is the still untapped energy savings and emission reductions to be found in energy efficiency. Once termed the world's "hidden fuel source" by the IEA, the report says that a full "two-thirds of the economic potential for energy efficiency is set to remain untapped in 2035 unless market barriers can be overcome."

The bulk of that "market barrier," however, remains the continued financial support, in the form of subsidies, given to the fossil fuel industry by governments which "incentivize wasteful consumption." Recent studies show these taxpayer funded supports of the industry amount to more than $500 billion annually.

Access the full IAE report here.

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