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International Energy Agency: Global carbon-cutting efforts fall 60% short of goal

By Jake Thomas
International Energy Agency: Global carbon-cutting efforts fall 60% short of goal
The Lu'an Coal to Oil Project in Changzhi, Shanxi Province. A report from the International Energy Agency called on governments to quickly phase out fossil fuels. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Commitments by world governments to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 will fall short by 60%, the International Energy Agency said in advance of an upcoming climate change conference.

In its annual World Energy Outlook, the agency said that if all countries successfully carried out their announced pledges, energy-related carbon emissions would fall by 40% by mid-century.

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"A lot more needs to be done by governments to fully deliver on their announced pledges," the agency said in the report.

COP26, a major world climate change conference, begins next week in Glasgow, Scotland. The report states that more than 50 countries, including the entire European Union, have pledged to meet net-zero targets.

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While the agency's report notes that its conclusions are "stark," it said that its message is "nonetheless a hopeful one." The report said there needs to be a "laser-like focus" on driving clean electrification, reducing methane emissions and driving investments in green energy.

"Many of the actions described are cost-effective, and the costs of the remainder are insignificant compared with the immense risks of inaction," it said.

The report also pointed to progress in phasing out coal, noting that China's commitment to not build any more plants using the carbon-intensive fuel is significant. But it said that phasing out coal will require "a broad-based and dedicated policy effort" that takes into account impacts on jobs and energy security.

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However, the investments will come at a cost. Clean energy projects and infrastructure upgrades over the next decade will cost $4 trillion, according to the report.

Seventy percent of the additional spending will be needed in emerging markets and developing economies, it said. The report placed responsibility for meeting these targets squarely in the hands of governments.

But Fatih Birol, the agency's executive director, told the Guardian that major economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic had already missed opportunities to invest in clean energy.

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"We are witnessing an unsustainable recovery from the pandemic," he told the paper.

Birol provided a possible path forward. He called on world leaders to make investments in clean energy profitable, and for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to prioritize clean energy investments.

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