January 19, 2018
This has never happened before. Never. Three years of stagnating carbon dioxide emissions coupled with relatively healthy global economic growth. In this podcast , International Energy Agency Chief Economist Laszlo Varro talks about leaving fossil fuels in the past.
Eighty percent of the world’s energy consumption is based on fossil fuels, which account for most of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet . Varro was recently invited to speak to IMF economists about the impact of climate change on energy policy. He says that achieving broad-based GDP growth in all the major regions of the global economy, while also decreasing emissions, was possible due to the declining energy intensity of the Chinese economy, rapid, large-scale investments in renewable energy—especially in solar power—and a large-scale shift from use of coal to natural gas.
“When economies shift from using coal to using gas, which is a very powerful structural shift that is ongoing in the United States, and to a lesser degree also in China, and it has an impact on reducing carbon emissions,” Varro says.
To successfully further decrease reliance on fossil fuels, Varro says there must be a persistent push on renewable and low-carbon energy sources into electricity, because the overwhelming majority of clean energy investment is in the electricity sector.
“There are technological solutions, but countries have to rethink their electricity regulations in a quite comprehensive fashion,” he says.
Varro concedes that electricity has its limits with the current state of technology. For example, do not expect to see an electric aircraft anytime soon. So, countries need to continue to innovate to develop other technological solutions that will replace fossil fuels, he says.
Large-scale shifts in economies rarely comes without some political challenges, and job losses are usually at the forefront. Varro says how technology affects employment is absolutely a concern, but he does not think that shifts in energy sources is the largest part of this.
“In the past 12 months in the U.S., the retail industry lost more jobs because of Amazon than the coal industry’s job losses in the last five years combined,” he says.
Listen to the podcast: