Carbon removal key to reaching Paris Agreement climate goals, Wood Mackenzie says

Fossil fuels will continue to account for 37% of the primary global energy demand in 2050 even if the net-zero goals are achieved

FILE PHOTO: Smoke and steam billow from the Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant, near Belchatow, Poland, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel//File Photo
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Removing carbon will be crucial to achieving the Paris Agreement's goal of capping the rise in global temperatures at 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels as countries around the world chart a path towards energy transition, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Even if the goals of the Paris Agreement are met, the world will continue to use fossil fuels, which will account for 37 per cent of primary energy demand in 2050.

That necessitates the active removal of about 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next 30 years in order to reach the mandated 1.5°C (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit) target, the consultancy said in a report.

“Under Wood Mackenzie’s 1.5°C Accelerated Energy Transition scenario, the world will still be producing – and using – just shy of 30 million barrels of oil per day in 2050," said Amy Bowe, carbon research head at Wood Mackenzie.

"At the same time, global natural gas consumption will total around 3,200 billion cubic metres ... despite significant growth in renewables."

Adding more renewables will not mitigate the impact of climate change, she said.

"We must think in terms of carbon avoidance and carbon removal, which means accelerating the upscaling of carbon capture utilisation and storage, starting now," said Ms Bowe.

Wood Mackenzie's call for carbon removal comes after the International Energy Agency urged countries to curb new fossil fuel investments and limit sales of internal combustion engine-based passenger cars by 2050 to achieve the net-zero emission targets.

The Paris-based agency also urged governments not to sanction new investment in fossil fuel supply projects and to defer final investment decisions on unabated coal plants, which use the fuel without lowering its carbon footprint.

Carbon capture, use and storage could be a good option to help lower the energy impact of certain industries, Wood Mackenize said.

The technology has become popular with industries, including the energy sector, as a way to reach climate goals.

Companies such as coal-fired power plants and oil producers capture the carbon and store or reuse it in mature oilfields to extract more output.

"CCS [carbon capture storage] clusters can play a pivotal role in harnessing economies of scale. Synergies are greatest where industrial point sources are near each other and a viable storage site," the report said.

Globally, around 33 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted in 2019. CCS projects across the world are only able to capture a fraction of the emissions, at about 40 million tonnes annually.

“If we are to have an impact on emissions, there needs to be a far more urgent and broader discussion of the viability of basin-wide CCS. Success will require economies of scale to triumph over economies of scope," said Neeraj Nandurdikar, global head of power and renewables at Wood Mackenzie.