Could 2030 be "The Beginning of the End" for Fossil Fuels?

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD

The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes we’ll reach “the beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era by the end of the decade. After that, fossil fuel will enter a permanent decline and eventually disappear almost entirely.

But what’s so special about 2030 and how realistic is it? Let’s take a look.

One of the single biggest contributors to climate change – vehicles – are undergoing a dramatic paradigm shift, with the industry moving away from the internal combustion engine towards electric and hybrid options.

And 2030 is a significant year for automakers, which have set all sorts of electric goals for the end of the decade.

For example:

-       Bentley wants 100% of all global sales to be electric by 2030

-       BMW is shooting for half that, at 50% by 2030

-       Ford is aiming for 40% of global volume, and 100% of their European line-up to be electric by 2030

-       Honda is targeting 40% of sales in major markets by 2030 and 100% by 2040

-       Nissan prefers that all new cars in key markets be electric by 2030

Given the auto’s significant contribution to global emissions, limiting that source could almost singlehandedly sound the death knell for fossil fuel.

But of course, if we look at the theater of operations, all of these emissions aspirations fall under the umbrella of the Paris Climate Accords, which aims to limit the rise in mean global temperature to below 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels.

And according to the UN, to realize the goals of the Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and decline 43% by 2030.

If we’d like to really get ambitious and limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F), we’ll need an even more dramatic emissions reduction.

For their part, the IEA noted that“Tripling renewable power capacity by 2030 is vital to keep the 1.5°C goal within reach.” But countries are definitely taking steps to abide with the baseline goals of the Paris Accords.

And the IEA claims that, under existing climate policies, oil, gas, and coal will hit a peak this decade, earlier than anticipated.

“Peaks for the three fossil fuels are a welcome sight, showing that the shift to cleaner and more secure energy systems is speeding up…” says the head of the IEA, Fatih Birol.

Birol credits climate policies and the exponential growth of EVs.

However, he also said projected declines are “are nowhere near steep enough to put the world on a path to limiting global warming to 1.5°C.”

But 2030 and 2°C appear to be fairly safe targets.