‘The golden age of gas’ is coming to an end, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has again urged a rapid move towards decarbonisation and investment in clean energy.
In its World Energy Outlook report, published on Thursday, the IEA – the world's foremost global body for the energy sector – said it foresaw a 50 per cent increase in investments towards renewable energy by the end of the decade.
It also suggested that, under current governments’ policies, the demand for all fossil fuels will decline before the mid-2030s.
However, if more decisive action to limit global warming is taken – such as that outlined by the Paris Agreement, or the IEA’s own Net Zero Emissions by 2050 pathway (NZE) – the demand for fossil fuels would dip dramatically in the very near future.
The IEA repeated its statement from its 2021 report, which said that no new oil or gas fields could be developed in order to achieve net-zero emissions. This warning came despite the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has impacted gas supplies to Europe. The IEA suggested that any new fossil fuel projects would come too late to have any impact on this shortfall in supply and would nonetheless be too environmentally damaging.
The report comes at a time when Perth-based Woodside is planning massive expansion of its gas export business in Western Australia’s north west. Both the highly controversial Scarborough and Browse projects have been spruiked by Woodside on the basis that they will supply cheap energy to counter the effects of the war in Ukraine and soaring gas prices in Australia, despite the fact that the vast majority of any gas extracted there would be sold for export.
While a drive to decarbonise would likely hit fossil fuel executives pay, the picture for Australian workers is more optimistic, with the IEA predicting that the global energy sector workforce would need to rise to 90 million by 2030, in order to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement. In short, a quick and largescale transition to renewable energy would mean another 40 million jobs in the clean energy sector.
Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said the world was fast approaching a “pivotal moment in energy history” as demand for the fossil fuels that have underpinned the modern economy since the advent of the industrial evolution nears an inflection point.
“After rapid growth in gas consumption in the last 10 years, we think the golden age of gas is coming to an end.
“The environmental case for clean energy needed no reinforcement, but the economic arguments in favour of cost-competitive and affordable clean technologies are now stronger, and, so too, is the energy security case.”
“The writing is on the wall for investors,” said Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker Initiative, speaking to the Financial Times. “There is no longer any doubt about the long-term prospects for fossil fuel production businesses, including new gas.”
Maggie Wood from the Conservation Council of WA, said: “The International Energy Agency, not traditionally known for its support of green issues, has become increasingly insistent that there can be no new oil or gas developments if the world is to avoid the worst excesses of climate change.
“When even the preeminent global body for the energy sector is telling us that developments like Woodside’s Scarborough and Browse fields are too damaging and too late to meet global energy needs, there can be no doubt about how serious the situation really is.
“The IEA has also recognised the huge economic potential of a swift transition to renewable energy, as well as the enormous number of jobs to be created – 40 million by their estimate. This is in stark contrast to the doom-laden spin coming out of the fossil fuel lobby, whose sole interest is in protecting their highly polluting business model which is incompatible with the desperate need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Companies like Woodside know that the days of oil and gas are numbered. We must resist any attempt for fossil fuel executives to extract the last profits from this dying industry at the expense of our climate.”
As part of the 2022 report, the IEA expressed its desire to see increased production of critical minerals, globally, in order to provide materials for new renewable energy developments.
While recognising the need for critical minerals to help in the production of renewable energy technology – such as batteries – Maggie Wood urged caution and called for best practice at any new sites.
“Critical mineral mining, in of itself, is not bad - and of course we accept it has a crucial role to play in meeting the need for an unprecedented expansion of renewable energy generation.
“However, it would be a wasted opportunity if we were to ignore the past mistakes made by indiscriminate mining practices and poorly planned fossil fuel sites. The safety and protection of our natural environment and vulnerable species, across WA, must be balanced with any new mining proposals.
“In short, we do need critical mineral mining, but we need it done in the correct way.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing more than 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia.
For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please contact Robert Davies
08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]