As per the World Resources Institute, State of Climate Action Report, 2023, progress for more than half of the indicators – including efforts to phase out coal in electricity generation, decarbonise buildings and reduce deforestation – remains well off track, such that the world will need to see at least a two-fold acceleration this decade.
For another six, recent trends are heading in the wrong direction entirely.
But it’s not all bad news: Over the last five years, the share of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in passenger car sales grew exponentially at an average annual rate of 65 per cent – up from 1.6 per cent of sales in 2018 to 10 per cent of sales in 2022 – putting this indicator on track for 2030.
Global efforts are also heading in the right direction at a promising, albeit still insufficient, pace for another six indicators, including those focused on the scale-up of zero-carbon power, reforestation and mandatory corporate climate risk disclosure, the report said.
The report said that global scale-up of zero-carbon power sources is advancing quickly, but fossil fuel phase-out in electricity generation is not. In 2022, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity generation reached an all-time high, but rapid growth in both renewable energy installation and generation suggests that power sector emissions have plateaued and may start to fall this year
Encouragingly, some of the fastest growth in renewable power generation has occurred across developing countries, such as Namibia and Uruguay, where wind and solar scale-up is also helping to bolster energy security and expand access to electricity.
Achieving 1.5 degree C-aligned targets for zero-carbon power, however, will require such gains to accelerate dramatically – the global share of solar and wind in electricity generation has been growing by an annual average of 14 per cent, but this needs to reach 24 per cent by 2030.
The report said that shifts to more sustainable modes of transportation, like bicycling, have yet to gain traction, but electric passenger car sales are taking off.
Rising incomes have increased travel and car ownership, driving steady growth in GHG emissions from transport. Global car ownership, for example, grew from about 240 vehicles per 1,000 people in 2015 to nearly 280 vehicles per 1,000 people in 2020, with especially high rates in developed countries. Unsurprisingly, travel by private car continues to rise and remains stubbornly high in wealthy countries like the United States.
To reduce the number of kilometers traveled in these passenger cars, the world must shift to more sustainable modes of transportation – walking, bicycling and shared public transit. But in the highest-emitting cities, initiatives to expand bike lanes and public transit infrastructure, though heading in the right direction, remain far too slow.
Together, these cities need to construct 140,000 kms of bike lanes and roughly 1,300 kms of metro rails, light-rail tracks and bus lanes each year through 2030.
While accelerating these modal shifts has proven challenging, the world has made considerable strides forward in electrifying existing forms of transport. Electric passenger car sales, for example, are on pace to reach their 1.5 degree C-aligned target for 2030.
Declines in cost, improvements in range and the expansion of charging infrastructure have all contributed to this recent exponential growth, with Norway, Iceland, Sweden, the Netherlands and China witnessing the fastest increases.
Gains made in decarbonising longer-haul transport like trucking, shipping and aviation, however, lag behind and will require more support to reach their 2030 targets, the report said.
The report said that although progress in decarbonising steel and cement has largely stagnated, recent developments suggest the tide may soon turn.
Since 2000, GHG emissions from the industry – which encompasses the production of materials like cement, steel and chemicals, as well as the construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure – have increased faster than in any other sector.
In an interview with ‘Time’, Sultan Al Jaber, the Ph.D. economist turned renewable–energy executive turned ADNOC CEO, who is presiding over the UN climate conference to be held in Dubai in December said, “A phase down of fossil fuels is inevitable, it is essential. … We have to accept that.”
At the same time, he says, the world is not ready to entirely kick oil and gas. “We need to get real,” he says. “We cannot unplug the world from the current energy system before we build a new energy system.”
Al Jaber hasn’t committed ADNOC to cutting its oil production, nor has he charted a path for it to become a renewable energy company. Instead, the company is investing more than $150 billion on growth projects, including expanding its crude-oil production capacity to 5 million barrels per day by 2030, ‘Time’ reported.
A fraction of that money, $15 billion, is dedicated to reducing the emissions that oil extraction will generate. That said, it has led to some improvement: Offshore oil rigs now run on electricity, and digital tools allow the company to map areas where energy is wasted. And the company has begun building big-budget carbon-capture projects.
Behind the scenes it has been clear that the Saudis are key to Al Jaber’s success or failure in reconciling the diverging needs of the climate crisis and the fossil fuel industry.
The country has the world’s second-largest oil reserves and has historically worked to protect its fossil-fuel economy in climate negotiations. “The extent to which there is any ambition depends on whether Saudi Aramco thinks it’s a good thing,” says one official with knowledge of the discussions among oil and gas companies, referring to the Saudi national oil company, ‘Time’ reported.