No new oil and gas fields should be approved for development if the world is to meet its climate goals and limit global warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.
In a new report published on Tuesday, the IEA claimed that, even if current climate pledges by global governments are achieved, the world will still fall short of bringing energy related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050.
However, the IEA believes there is still a chance for the world to reach the goal and limit the global warming temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, setting out 400 milestones in its roadmap to net zero by 2050.
Immediate halt to fossil fuel development
Included in the roadmap is an immediate call for no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants.
"Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required,” the report states.
“The unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net zero pathway results in a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, meaning that the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output — and emissions reductions — from the operation of existing assets."
Under its scenario, the IEA forecasts gas demand declining by 55% to 1.75 trillion cubic metres per day by 2050, while oil demand will shrink by 75%, to 24 million barrels per day.
In its report, the agency admits the contraction of oil and natural gas production will have “far-reaching implications” for producing countries and companies.
It forecasts annual per capita income from producer economies will decline by about 75%, from $1800 in recent years, to $450 by the 2030s.
Under its pathway, the IEA sees oil and gas supply becoming increasingly concentrated in "a small number of low-cost producers", while producer cartel Opec’s share of global oil supply will grow from roughly 37% in recent years to an unprecedented 52% in 2050.
The IEA report also calls for a halt to sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars by 2035, and phasing out of all unabated coal and oil power plants by 2040.
IEA executive director Faith Birol claimed the report shows priority actions are needed now to ensure the “narrow but still achievable” goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is met.
“The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal — our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” he added.
“The IEA’s pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international co-operation.”
'If you're in a hole, stop digging'
The call for an end to oil and gas exploration and development was welcomed by environmental groups that have long campaigned against the industry.
“Finally the IEA is starting to get it: If we’re to have a fighting chance of meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to phase out fossil fuels," executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, said.
"We can’t even burn — or afford to burn — all the reserves we’ve currently got.
Morgan added: “To avert climate catastrophe and biodiversity devastation, and to maintain an ‘unwavering policy focus on climate change in the net zero pathway,’ governments and regulators have to act and that means an end to licensing for new oil and gas now.
"The IEA has spelled it out once and for all: if you’re in a hole, stop digging.”