2 Degrees of Separation

Paris Agreement goals looking lofty

Even before the surprise result of the U.S. presidential election put a blanket of jeopardization over all renewable energy efforts to counter climate change, the numbers set by the Paris Climate Agreement may have been too ambitious.

Greentech Media reported that the $44 trillion needed in investment to reach these numbers would probably fall short. One of the crucial mandates of the Paris accord was to limit global climate change to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius by 2040. This could be unrealistic…especially if the U.S. doesn’t get involved. That task was shadowed in doubt Wednesday when Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was unofficially reported to be named head of the EPA under the new cabinet. Pruitt is currently amidst a lawsuit against the EPA with other state representatives supporting West Virginia’s efforts against carbon emission regulations.

The main source of the numerical concerns is the International Energy Agency, specifically the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, which it released last month using data up until mid-2016. As noted, this date means the Outlook does not include any pledges as part of the Paris climate agreement that have not yet been codified as policy (since the ratification of the agreement just happened in early November). The IEA states that with current policies, “This is sufficient to slow the projected rise in global energy-related CO2 emissions, but not nearly enough to limit warming to less than 2 [degrees Celsius].”

Understanding the numbers requires a basic breakdown of the energy sector. This contains two main areas, as far as long-term projections and preparation are concerned: global energy supply and global energy efficiency. According to the IEA, investment funding is not what needs support. The report said investment would actually need to be $4 trillion less for energy supply. Meanwhile, the other area—energy efficiency—would need to see an increase by of $23 trillion in funding by 2040…and that’s just to have “a 50-50 chance” at meeting the goals.

Most importantly, clean energy is required to permeate not only the electricity supply, but also freight, air and maritime transport and industrial processes. In particular, efficiency in electric motors could contribute significantly to any future cuts in energy demand growth.

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