The world is "at the beginning of the end" of the fossil fuel era, according to the head of the world's energy watchdog, which for the first time has predicted that demand for oil, natural gas and coal will peak before 2030.
The International Energy Agency, IEA, predicted that the consumption of the three main fuels will be reduced within this decade due to the rapid growth of renewable energy and the spread of electric vehicles.
"We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the era of fossil fuels and we must prepare for the next era," said the head of the IEA Fatih Birol of the forecasts, which will be published next month in the body's World Energy Outlook. "This shows that climate policies are working."
Writing in the Financial Times, Birol called it a "historic turning point" but called on policymakers to do more to accelerate the energy transition and reduce emissions, despite political obstacles to decarbonisation.
Governments around the world have stepped up investment in renewables in response to climate change and the energy crisis fueled by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but many have faced a spending backlash during a cost-of-energy crisis. living.
Birol also highlighted "structural changes" in China's economy as it transitions from heavy industry to less energy-intensive industries and services.
"In the last 10 years, China accounted for about one-third of the increase in demand for natural gas globally and two-thirds of the increase in demand for oil," said Birol. "Solar, wind and nuclear will eat up China's potential coal growth."
The IEA chief said policymakers needed to be "nimble" to adapt to the energy transition and argued it could be accelerated through "stronger climate policies", despite concerns in Western capitals about voters' tolerance for rapid change .
The US and EU have launched ambitious programs to support the growth of renewable energy, but have faced criticism from political opponents over the costs.
Roberta Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, warned this month that Brussels' climate policies risked pushing voters towards populist parties, while in the UK the government has backed new oil and gas drilling and criticized the expansion of London's ultra-high emission zone. low.
Birol said large new fossil fuel projects risked becoming so-called stranded assets, while acknowledging that some investment in oil and gas supplies would be needed to account for declines in existing fields.
Both he and the IEA have faced attacks from big fossil fuel producers, who warn that underinvestment in oil and gas supplies risks future energy crises if forecasts for a consumption peak prove too optimistic.
OPEC, the oil producers' cartel, accused the IEA in April of fueling "instability" in markets through its calls to halt investment in new oil developments.
Birol said: "Oil and gas companies can not only misjudge public opinion." . . they may have misjudged the market if they expect further growth in oil and gas demand this decade.
"New large-scale fossil fuel projects carry not only huge climate risks but also huge financial risks."
Birol urged policymakers not to become complacent, warning that emissions must fall rapidly after a peak in the mid-2020s to have any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
"We expect global emissions to peak by the middle of this decade, but it is still far from reaching our climate targets even with additional policies," Birol said. "We can accelerate this if we put the right new policies in place... It's in our hands." / Financial Times