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IEA Report Says Progress on Clean Energy has Stalled

IEA17 April 2013: Progress towards a clean energy future has stalled, according to a report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) at the fourth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), held in New Delhi from 17-18 April 2013. The report, titled “Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013,” notes that despite impressive gains, renewables did not grow fast enough to offset rising emissions from coal fired-generation, and due to the "alarmingly" slow progress of emerging technologies capable of reducing energy use and CO2 emissions, the IEA determines that the world is not on track to achieve the interim 2020 targets in the "IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2012" 2°C Scenario.

In a speech delivered at the event, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven warned that, “We cannot afford another 20 years of listlessness. We need a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies if we are to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet, but we must also accelerate the shift away from dirtier fossil fuels," with the report highlighting that the world emitted 2.37 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil equivalent (tCO2/toe) in 2010, virtually unchanged from the 2.39 tCO2/toe in 1990.

At the same time, the report finds a robust expansion of mature renewable energy technologies, with solar photovoltaics growing by 42% and wind by 19% between 2011 and 2012. The report is particularly optimistic on renewable energy markets in countries outside of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), referencing, for instance, China's strengthening of renewable targets and policies emitted in 2012. Alongside the report, the IEA has created interactive online data visualizations of key numbers and trends discussed in the publication.

Other topics covered in the report include: nuclear and natural gas fired power; buildings, biofuels, industry and other end-use sectors; smart grids, co-generation, and district heating and cooling; and energy innovation and research and development.

An annex to the report on carbon capture and storage (CCS), published separately, offers a summary and recommendations for advancing CCS, which the Agency describes as the sole option for decarbonizing a number of industrial sectors. “Global Action to Advance Carbon Capture and Storage” finds that the demonstration of and policy attention to CCS is insufficient, noting that cement, iron and steel, chemicals and other industries could account for half of emission reductions from CCS through 2050.

In light of these potential reductions, the annex recommends the commitment of public funds to develop, demonstrate and deploy CCS through around ten demonstration-scale projects. It further recommends that governments create a policy environment conducive to CCS deployment through forward looking industrial strategies, while reducing risks and uncertainties public engagement, knowledge sharing, and other forms of engagement with stakeholders across all sectors. [IEA Press Release] [Publication: Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013] [Interactive data visualizations] [Publication: Annex on Global Action to Advance Carbon Capture and Storage] [CEM4 Website] [IISD RS Story on IEA's Energy Technology Perspectives 2012]