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Ahead of COP28, global effort intensifies to scale up clean energy, reduce fossil fuel demand

Plans to better source and process critical minerals, which are vital for the clean energy transition
IEA
World leaders meet at the IEA Climate Summit in Madrid, October 2, 2023.

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Momentum behind efforts to build a broad coalition to keep the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C within reach increased at the International Climate and Energy Summit in Madrid on October 2. According to recent IEA report, for the world’s emissions to peak by 2025 and then fall rapidly until they hit net zero by 2050 or earlier, both an important change in ambition and new levels of global cooperation are vital.

Co-hosted by the Spanish government, which currently holds the EU Presidency, and the IEA, the Summit focused on strengthening support for actions to scale up clean energy and reduce demand for fossil fuels ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement.

Ministers and senior officials from close to 40 countries around the world as well as industry leaders gathered at a summit under co-chairs Spain’s Vice President Teresa Ribera and IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. The latter reminded that IEA’s data shows that even if no new climate policies are enacted, demand for all three fossil fuels will peak this decade – the result of spectacular progress in delivering key clean energy technologies such as solar and electric cars. “However, this is still insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5°C, a target that scientists have said is essential,” Birol said. “Today, a broad coalition of stakeholders showed their commitment to increasing our global ambition – a sign of what is needed to keep the 1.5°C goal alive during a crucial period for action ahead of COP28,” he added.

“We have the power to deliver a positive outcome from COP28, but we must act quickly,” Ribera said. “The leaders from government, international organisations, the private sector and civil society who came together today showed dedication to keeping the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach. Now, these conversations must translate into bolder commitments and even stronger cooperation. Climate change is a global problem and it requires a global response, she added.

“We are committed to keeping our climate goals on track,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt said, adding that hot topics at the IEA summit included clean hydrogen, and a just and equitable energy transition.

Alberto Troccoli, the managing director of World Energy & Meteorology Council at the School of Environmental Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, told NE Global on October 8 there is a strong momentum towards the target of tripling renewable energies by 2030. “If achieved this would provide over 80% of the global electricity consumption, which is currently at around 28%. Coupled with the target of doubling in energy efficiency, and the expected peak in fossil fuel use sometime during this decade, it would take us to a very strong position towards netzero by 2050, even if it is going to be hard not to somewhat overshoot the 1.5 degree target,” Troccoli said. “The guard cannot be lowered, however, as fossil fuel companies interests in controlling the market are still very strong, and their pledges and actions often appear controversial, including with the choice the president of COP28, who is the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC),” he added.

The choice of Sultan al-Jaber, whose country is an OPEC member and major oil producer, as president of COP28 has drawn criticism from climate leaders and environmental campaigners calling it a “conflict of interest”. Al Jaber has said, “the UAE is approaching COP28 with a strong sense of responsibility and the highest possible level of ambition,” calling for a more inclusive COP that brings the hydrocarbon industry into the climate debate and allows it to be part of the energy transition and decarbonization.

The discussions in Madrid on October 2 reflected that the key actions required to sharply bend the emissions curve this decade are widely known, cost effective and occurring at an accelerating rate. Tripling renewable energy capacity, doubling the pace of energy efficiency improvements, ramping up electrification and slashing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations together provide 80 percent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to put the energy sector on a pathway to limit warming to 1.5°C, according to the IEA report.

According to the Summit statement, the three key actions provide 80 percent of the emissions reductions needed to put the energy sector on a pathway consistent with limiting warming to 1.5ºC. These are: tripling the installed capacity of renewables, doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvement, and reducing methane emissions from fossil fuel operations by 75 percent by 2030. These actions to scale up clean energy and improve energy efficiency are critical to driving down fossil fuel demand this decade while ensuring an orderly transition, minimizing volatility in energy prices and providing a clear planning horizon to industry. These points provide a key benchmark for the success of COP-28.

Diversifying supplies of critical minerals

A few days earlier at an IEA critical minerals summit in Paris, almost 50 countries from continents across the world – including large and emerging critical mineral producers and consumers – discussed effective courses of action on critical minerals to ensure rapid and secure energy transitions. In Europe, the reliance of much of the green transition on China’s supply of rare earth minerals has worried national leaders.

US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez, who hosted a roundtable on Critical Minerals at the UNGA on September 19, also discussed in Paris during the IEA Summit ways to better source and process critical minerals, which are vital for the clean energy transition. The IEA is trying to help countries around the world develop robust and resilient clean energy supply chains.

The Summit on September 28 builds on the ministerial mandate given to the IEA in 2022 to further its work on critical minerals, the materials at the heart of key clean energy technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels. The IEA is creating a new Energy Security and Critical Minerals Division within its Secretariat after it has been asked by governments around the world to make recommendations on options to diversify supplies of critical minerals and clean energy technology manufacturing.

“The level of over-concentration that we see in critical minerals markets today is unlike that for any other major commodity we have come to rely on in the modern world,” Birol said. “History has shown us that failing to properly diversify supplies and trade routes of essential resources comes with profound risks,” he added.

According to the IEA chief, locking in secure and sustainable supplies of critical minerals for the clean energy transition has quickly become a top priority for governments, companies and investors around the world.

The first annual IEA Critical Minerals Market Review, released in July along with a new online data explorer, shows that record deployment of clean energy technologies is propelling huge demand for minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper. To meet this new wave of demand, six key action areas were identified including: accelerating progress towards diversified minerals supplies; unlocking the power of technology and recycling; promoting transparency in the markets; enhancing the availability of reliable information; creating incentives for sustainable and responsible production; and strengthening efforts on international collaboration.

“Fostering inclusive dialogue must be at the forefront of the critical minerals agenda as we navigate this complex and multifaceted issue within the clean energy transition,” Birol said. “Through its analysis and data, it is the IEA’s mission to ensure that critical minerals become a symbol of international cooperation rather than resource anxiety.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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