THE world has more than enough renewable energy potential to comfortably transition away from fossil fuels and achieve the 1.5C global warming target, while expanding energy access for all, according to scientists.

In their Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy, Dr Sven Teske and Dr Sarah Niklas show through detailed modelling 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 on climate change. Their modelling shows the world would produce significantly more fossil fuels than it can afford under the 1.5C goal by 2030, leading to 66% more emissions than is compatible with the target.

They say the world must actively wind down existing coal mines and oil and gas wells while increasing renewable energy.

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The pair, from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, at the University of Technology, Sydney, say this transition is not only required but is feasible, with all regions having enough renewable energy to provide energy access to all using existing technologies.

Their strategy suggests the twin challenges of phasing out fossil fuels and increasing electricity access at the speed required can be achieved through the scaling up of renewable energy and an orderly wind down of coal, oil and gas.

The National: Dr Sven TeskeDr Sven Teske

The report comes after the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap, which said the world needs to stop investing in and expanding fossil fuels.

Teske and Niklas’s Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy goes further by finding 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.

Rebecca Byrnes, deputy director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said: “This report shows that a practical pathway exists where there are no new fossil fuel projects, existing projects are phased out, emissions are kept within a 1.5C budget and energy access becomes universal, all while using existing and increasingly cost-competitive technologies.

“The hurdle is no longer economic nor technical; our biggest challenges are political.

“A cleaner future is within reach and, while international co-operation is essential for innovation and investment, nation states can and should act now to regulate fossil fuel production decline.”

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Teske, research director at the University of Technology, added: “National governments must establish binding limits for the extraction volumes for coal, oil and gas.

“A just transition for workers from the fossil to the renewable energy industry is essential. Any new investments in coal, oil and gas projects are not in line with the Paris Agreement and would most likely be stranded due to favourable economics for renewables – especially solar and wind.

“The combination of renewable energies, storage technologies and renewable fuels such as hydrogen and synthetic fuels will provide reliable energy supply for industries, future travelling as well as for buildings. The fossil energy industry must be wound down.”