The threat to climate change mitigation posed by the abundance of fossil fuels
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2018
This article analyses the trends in primary demand for fossil fuels and renewables,
comparing regions with large and small domestic fossil fuel reserves. We focus on
countries that hold 80% of global fossil fuel reserves and compare them with key
countries that have meagre fossil fuel reserves. We show that those countries with
large domestic fossil fuel reserves have experienced a large increase in primary
energy demand from fossil fuels, but only a moderate or no increase in primary
energy from renewables, and in particular from non-hydro renewable energy
sources (NHRES), which are assumed to represent the cornerstone of the future
transformation of the global energy system. This implies a tremendous threat to
climate change mitigation, with only two principal mitigation options for fossil-fuelrich
economies if there is to be compliance with the temperature goals of the Paris
Agreement: (1) leave the fossil fuels in the ground; and (2) apply carbon capture
and storage (CCS) technologies. Combinations of these two options to exploit their
respective possibilities synergistically will require strong initiatives and incentives to
transform a certain amount of the domestic fossil fuel reserves (including the
associated infrastructure) into stranded assets and to create an extensive CCS
infrastructure. Our conclusion is that immediate and disruptive changes to the use
of fossil fuels and investments in non-carbon-emitting technologies are required if
global warming is to be limited to well below 2°C. Collective actions along value
chains in business to divert from fossil fuels may be a feasible strategy.
Key policy insights
. The main obstacle to compliance with any reasonable warming target is the
abundance of fossil fuels, which has maintained and increased momentum
towards new fossil-fuelled processes.
. So far, there has been no increase in the share of NHRES in total global primary
energy demand, with a clear decline in the NHRES share in India and China.
. There is an immediate need for the global community to develop fossil fuel
strategies and policies.
. Policies must account for the global trade flow of products that typically occurs
from the newly industrialized fossil fuel-rich countries to the developed countries.