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IEA demands global action over predicted CO2 emissions increase

Organisation has warned of need for national plans to rethink energy use for functions such as heating with a focus on efficiency and innovation as major climate change convention commences

More must be done to incorporate innovative technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage solutions in order to offset predictions of an increase in global carbon dioxide emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

Sectors such as the building services industry are in the process of considering the potential roles new energy approaches, particularly with regard to hydrogen and electric solutions, may play in transforming processes such as heating to meet national and international low carbon strategies.

The IEA’s calls for improved support to adopt more energy efficient systems ti help curb greenhouse gas emissions has been made as the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commences in Poland this week.

Nations from around the world will gather during the event, which runs until December 16, to discuss current progress around climate change mitigation. The discussions are taking place as the IEA argues that 2018 will see the first increase in carbon dioxide emissions from major world economies for five years.

IEA has cited recent energy data that it said point to an anticipated minor increase in carbon dioxide emissions of around 0.5 per cent In North America, the EU and advanced economies in Asia.

The agency said its preliminary predictions for an increase in emissions in these markets was below the 2.4 per cent economic growth recorded. However, an increase did raise questions about progress to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The IEA said that any growth in CO2 emissions related to energy consumption would need to peak as soon as possible and be followed by significant declines so that countries can meet their individual obligations to try and limit the impacts of climate change.

The agency stated, “We expect emerging economies to emit more CO2 than last year.”

“The IEA’s full global energy and CO2 data for 2018 will be released next March, but all indications point to emissions growth globally, driven by rising energy use and a global economy expanding by 3.7 per cent.”

Dr Fatih Birol, executive director with the IEA, argued that governments needed to now do more to encourage uptake of renewable energy solutions, nuclear power and carbon capture technologies.

The agency said that its data had shown that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions had been succesfully reduced by approximately three per cent over the last five years in ‘advanced economies’ alone.

IEA stated, “This was primarily due to a steady decline in coal consumption, given rapid growth in renewables sources of energy, the spread of more efficient equipment and appliances, and coal-to-gas switching, especially in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.”

No ‘silver bullet’ solution

Despite the IEA backing for hydrogen as a vital component to transform existing heating needs, UK energy industry figures have warned against relying on any one particular solution.

A recent report from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said any successful attempts to realise low to no carbon heating in the UK would likely rely on a mixed approach that made use of electric, gas and network-based solutions. This mixed approach would better be able to address differing challenges provided by the existing and future shape of the UK building stock.

Findings from the CCC, which provides feedback and research to inform government policy, concluded that adoption of hydrogen alone will not serve as a ‘silver bullet’ solution to reducing carbon emissions, despite its potential to reshape approaches to heating and energy.

Core conclusions from the new findings suggest therefore that hydrogen can replace natural gas “in parts of the energy system”, especially where electrification is viewed as prohibitively expensive or technically unfeasible.

The report stated, “Based on new modelling, our assessment is now that heat pumps offer the potential to provide heat efficiently for most of the time, with hydrogen boilers contributing mainly to meet peak demands on the coldest winter days.”

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