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According to climate scientists, 2023 marks the start of the decline of the fossil fuel industry.
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According to climate scientists, 2023 marks the start of the decline of the fossil fuel industry.

Experts believe that global efforts to mitigate the effects of a rapidly progressing climate disaster have made significant progress in the past year, as evidenced by the peak of carbon emissions from energy consumption around the world.

Many experts studying climate change predict that 2023 could be the year when yearly emissions reach their highest point before the world’s reliance on fossil fuels begins to decrease permanently.

The milestone marks a significant turning point in the effort to reduce emissions to net zero. However, according to many climate experts, it is a critical point that should have been reached years ago. While it is a positive development, it does not meet the urgent need for rapid reductions globally.

Climate experts have repeatedly cautioned that the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere make it crucial to decrease emissions before 2030 in order to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. It is widely acknowledged that achieving this reduction in emissions would require a significant global transformation, which has yet to be implemented.

Dave Jones, a director at the climate thinktank Ember, stated that we should briefly pause to acknowledge this significant moment. However, it is concerning that we are still discussing when emissions may reach their peak. The truth is, in order to stay within the extremely limited carbon budget, we must make substantial and rapid cuts to emissions.

Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) brought optimism by predicting that the use of oil, gas, and coal would reach its peak before 2030 and decline as a result of climate-focused policies.

Fatih Birol, the director of the IEA, stated that the timing is not a matter of “if” but rather “how soon” and that it would benefit everyone to act sooner rather than later.

To comprehend if the world has already reached a peak in global emissions, only two years after experiencing one of the most significant increases in emissions, it is beneficial to examine the global electricity industry.

According to Malgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, the primary author of a study by Ember, the global power sector is currently struggling with high levels of emissions. The report, released earlier this year, revealed that electricity generation emissions have reached a plateau in 2023 and may start to decrease in the coming year.

The study analyzed the production of electricity in 78 countries, which accounts for 92% of the world’s electricity needs. It discovered a 16% increase in solar power generation and a 10% increase in global wind power production.

According to the IEA’s prominent report, which is highly regarded in discussions about climate and energy, it concluded that the increasing use of wind and solar energy is projected to surpass the world’s increasing need for energy. This indicates that renewable energy sources will begin to replace fossil fuels on a worldwide level.

Simultaneously, the deployment of electric vehicles around the world is projected to decrease the need for road fuels, which currently accounts for approximately 50% of the oil consumption in developed nations.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there has been a rapid increase in these developments. This event caused a spike in the prices of gas and oil in 2022, leading to a renewed emphasis on acquiring clean energy from domestic sources.

According to a potential situation presented by the IEA, using the policies currently in place by governments around the world, it has been determined that emissions could reach their highest point as early as this year and then gradually decrease. The IEA emphasizes that none of these scenarios should be viewed as predictions. The “stated policies” scenario is considered a more dependable indicator of what may happen in the future because it is based on a thorough examination of current policies rather than just verbal commitments made by governments.

Multiple reputable energy organizations have conducted various studies supporting the findings, depicting a world on the brink of the end of the fossil fuel era.

The study conducted by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air for Carbon Brief analyzed China’s carbon emissions, which are currently the highest in the world and exceed the combined emissions of the US, India, and Russia. It predicts that these emissions may reach their peak this year and then decline structurally by 2024. The study also discovered that China’s implementation of wind and solar power has been more rapid than anticipated, potentially surpassing the country’s increasing energy demands.

Climate Analytics, a climate policy institute, discovered that China’s emissions have reached a peak this year. They also forecasted that this peak in emissions, from the world’s most energy-consuming country, could lead to a critical “tipping point” for global emissions in 2023.

According to Dr. Neil Grant, who wrote the report, the growth in energy demand has been higher than the deployment of renewable energy for many years, even with the significant increase in wind and solar energy. However, we are now reaching a turning point where renewable energy will surpass the growth in demand and begin to replace coal, oil, and gas. This would signal the start of the decline of the fossil fuel industry.

However, there is a warning in the forecast. Claire Fyson, a co-author of the Climate Analytics report, cautioned that the current trends of increasing renewable energy and electric vehicles must persist in order for emissions to decrease.

Fyson stated that this progress will not occur spontaneously. Technologies typically experience an ‘S’ shaped growth pattern, where they initially explode in popularity but eventually slow down. It is crucial for government policies to continuously promote the use of renewable energy sources and discourage the use of fossil fuels.

There is not a universal consensus on whether fossil fuels have reached their decline. Some of the largest oil producers have openly declared that there is no indication of a decrease in oil demand or emissions.

Earlier this year, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) stated that carbon emissions from energy sources would continue to increase until 2050, reflecting the increasing global need for oil. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has also forecasted a continued growth in global oil demand until 2045, although at a slower rate compared to previous years.

“I believe it is important to consider the underlying motives driving these projects,” stated Fyson. “It is in Opec’s best interest to predict an increase in demand for oil.”

Strong oil demand forecasts can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. They might encourage governments to back further oil and gas exploration to avoid a shortfall, which in turn can lead to lower oil commodity prices if there is more oil and gas than needed. This creates a disincentive to switch from a fossil fuel vehicle or heating system to an electric alternative if it’s cheaper to use gas or oil.

According to experts, Opec has consistently underestimated the growth of electric vehicles in its official predictions. These forecasts are used by governments to shape their policies. A recent report by Zero Carbon Analytics revealed that Opec’s forecasts for the number of electric vehicles in 2022 were off by an average of nearly 60% between 2015 and 2021. In 2021 alone, the cartel’s predictions for the global electric vehicle fleet were incorrect by 49%, according to the report.

Amy Kong, who wrote the report, claimed that the predictions have consistently been inaccurate and were likely a deceptive tactic used by oil companies to convince investors and governments that fossil fuels are still a viable option.

Climate experts warn that despite the decline in fossil fuels and carbon emissions, there is still a significant danger of not taking swift action to decrease emissions in order to prevent a global temperature increase of 1.5C from pre-industrial levels.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, in order to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5C as outlined in the Paris agreement, emissions must decrease by approximately 9% each year. To provide perspective, emissions decreased by 5.4% during the halt of global economies due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but have since begun to increase once more.

Significant progress must be made in reducing the world’s record-breaking levels of carbon emissions. However, starting next year, there is a high likelihood that steps will be taken in the correct direction.

Source: theguardian.com