A global shift from fossil fuels to renewables could be undermined by the very organisation that ought to be leading the charge, according to a scathing new critique of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
IEA projections are used by Governments to set energy policies, but their figures, allegedly skewed by the oil industry, are pushing them further off track from emissions targets, says a report by research and advocacy NGO Oil Change International.
In its annual World Energy Outlook, the IEA provides a series of possible scenarios, all of which says Oil Change International would break the Paris climate change agreement of ensuring global temperatures remain to well below a 2 degree, or ideally 1.5 degrees C, rise by the end of the century.
“The IEA provides an energy roadmap that is supposed to lead us to safety, but in fact, it takes us over the cliff,” says Greg Muttitt, research director at Oil Change International. “Any government or financial institution that uses these scenarios as a basis for investments in oil and gas is getting seriously bad information. It’s shocking how far off the Paris agreement they are.”
In a statement, the IEA said any suggestion its sustainable development scenario was unaligned with the Paris goals was incorrect because it envisaged a peaking of emissions before 2020, followed by a sharp decline. It said its new policies scenario was intended only as a reference that showed current and announced policies are “far from enough to avoid severe impacts of climate change” and will very quickly use up the global carbon budget.
The IEA noted it has also outlined a “faster transition scenario” that illustrates how the Paris goals can be met using existing technologies. This will be updated in April.
The Paris-based IEA was established in 1974 in the wake of an oil crisis with the goal of ensuring “reliable, affordable and clean energy”. More recently, it has tried to widen its focus to renewables and to encourage participation by emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil, which are now associate members.
Muttitt said the IEA needed to catch up with changing priorities and to follow the example set by the World Bank, which in December announced it would cease upstream investment in oil and gas by 2019 in response to the threat posed by climate change.
A spokesperson for the IEA said it was not beholden to any industry, that the two dozen authors and several hundred reviewers of the World Energy Outlook came from a wide range of fields and that the agency’s work benefits from input from governments, NGOs and a wide range of industries, including renewable companies. It also noted the most recent ministerial meeting backed a modernisation strategy to turn the IEA into a “global clean energy hub”.
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