Study Details How IEA's Rosy Outlook for Fossil Fuels Is Driving World Towards Climate Disaster

A new groundbreaking report out Thursday details how one of the most influential organizations in the world when it comes to the global energy system, the International Energy Agency (IEA), is holding back governments from making the necessary transition away from fossil fuels and towards the kind of rapid transition to renewables that scientists say is necessary to ward off the worst-case scenarios of global warming and the climate crisis.

Published by Oil Change International and the Institute for Energy Efficiency and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the report—titled Off Track:How the International Energy Agency Guides Energy Decisions towards Fossil Fuel Dependence and Climate Change (pdf)—concludes that the IEA’s ongoing guidance to countries that have agreed to do everything possible to meet the goal of the Paris climate agreement is undermining those commitments by painting a picture of a world that remains much too wedded to the use of oil, gas, and coal.

“The IEA promotes a vision of the future where the world remains dependent on fossil fuels,” warns Greg Muttitt, research director at Oil Change International and lead author of the report. “As a basis for policy and investment decisions, this is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. All 30 of the IEA’s member countries have signed the Paris Agreement, so the IEA should be helping them achieve climate goals, not holding them back.”

With a close look at the IEA’s annual “New Policies Scenario” (NPS) report—arguably the most influential of its kind among world leaders and governments— Muttitt’s analysis reveals that the scenarios it lays out are in direct contradiction to the goals agreed to in the Paris accord. Specifically, it notes:

  • The NPS implies burning an amount of fossil fuels that would exhaust the carbon budget for the 1.5°C target by 2022, and for a 2°C limit by 2034.
  • Of the NPS’ recommended upstream oil and gas investment, between 78 and 96 percent – US$ 11.2 to 13.8 trillion over 2018-40 – is incompatible with the Paris goals.

“The IEA provides an energy roadmap that is supposed to lead us to safety, but in fact it takes us over the cliff,” Muttitt told the Guardian in a separate interview. “Any government or financial institution that uses these scenarios as a basis for investments in oil and gas is getting seriously bad information. It’s shocking how far off the Paris agreement they are.”

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