The world has sufficient renewables potential to transition away from fossil fuels while also expanding energy access for all, according to new analysis from the University of Technology Sydney.
The analysis, titled Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy, carried out by Sven Teske and Sarah Niklas, from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, shows that, even if no new fossil fuel projects were built from today, carbon emissions from existing projects are still far too high to stay on course towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Modelling in the report demonstrates the world would produce significantly more fossil fuels than it can afford under a 1.5°C climate goal by 2030, leading to 66% more emissions in 2030 than is compatible with 1.5°C.
Therefore, the world needs to “actively wind down existing coal mines and oil and gas wells while increasing renewable energy” the report stated.
The report shows that this transition is “not only required but completely feasible”.
All regions have enough renewable energy to provide energy access to all using existing technologies, the report found.
This suggests that it is possible to meet the twin challenges of phasing out fossil fuels and increasing electricity access at the speed required through scaling up renewable energy.
This report comes shortly after the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap that states clearly the world needs to stop investing in and expanding fossil fuels.
The Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy report goes further by finding that it is also necessary to begin phasing down existing coal mines and oil and gas wells to have a chance of preventing catastrophic climate change.
A key finding of the report suggests that to keep warming to below the temperature goal of 1.5°C there must be both an end to expansion of fossil fuel production, and a phase down of existing production.
The report shows that, by 2030, even without any new coal, oil or gas projects, the world would produce 35% more oil and 69% more coal than is consistent with a 1.5°C pathway.
As the cost of renewables has dropped, economic potential for renewables has grown alongside technical potential.
The study found that even when taking into account environmental safeguards, land constraints and technical feasibility, solar and wind energy could power the world more than 50 times over.