The world can be weaned away from fossil fuels in as short a time as a decade but this would require significant shifts in technology, regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, besides the behaviour of users.
In his analysis, Prof Benjamin Sovacool, Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex said this calls for a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-scalar effort that learns from previous energy systems and technology transitions. However, past transitions alone cannot give a clear picture as the scenario today is one of scarce resources, dire climate change threat and a technological regime which is much advanced and innovative.
Moving from wood to coal in Europe took between 96 and 160 years, whereas electricity took 47 to 69 years to enter into mainstream use. But Ontario completed a shift away from coal between 2003 and 2014, he notes. So also, in Indonesia it took just three years to move two-thirds of the population from kerosene stoves to LPG stoves while France's nuclear power programme saw supply soar from four per cent in 1970 to 40 per cent in 1982.
The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Research & Social Science.
Energy related emissions
Energy accounts for two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions of carbon dioxide from energy sector have leveled off since a couple of years now at around 32 billion tones, but still cannot avert a temperature increase of 2.7 °C by 2100, the International Energy Agency cautioned, unless a major course correction is applied.
Global energy demand is expected to grow by nearly a third between 2013 and 2040, with net growth coming entirely from developing countries.
In its Special Report on Energy and Climate Change released last year the agency proposed few measures to peak energy sooner than later and limit climate change. These include energy efficiency improvements in the industry, buildings and transport sectors, while clamping down on least-efficient coal-fired power plants. It suggested increasing investment in renewable energy technologies in the power sector from $270 billion in 2014 to $400 billion in 2030 and a gradual phasing out of fossil-fuel subsidies to end-users by 2030.
Paris climate pact
Meanwhile, a record 155 countries will sign the Paris climate pact at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters on April 22.
The Paris agreement will take effect 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the secretary-general. These include top polluters like China, United States, Japan, India, Brazil, Australia and many European Union countries including Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.
The pact agrees on keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). National plans to limit emissions are however not legally binding.
The UN is also planning to soon meet and discuss on measures to limit warming to 1.5 C. The world has already seen around 1 deg rise from pre-industrial times.