The IEA’s delegation in Dubai has been making clear what needs to be done to shift the world onto a 1.5 °C pathway. While the rapid deployment of clean energy technologies in recent years has made a major difference to the climate outlook, the world is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global warming well below 2 °C – let alone below the threshold of 1.5 °C that science has shown is crucial to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Based on data and analysis in its recent World Energy Outlook, IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol has laid out five interdependent pillars for action between now and 2030.

  • Triple global renewable power capacity;
  • Double the rate of energy efficiency improvements;
  • Commitments by the fossil fuel industry, and oil and gas companies in particular, to align activities with the Paris Agreement, starting by cutting methane emissions from operations by 75%;
  • Establish large-scale financing mechanisms to triple clean energy investment in emerging and developing economies;
  • Commit to measures that ensure an orderly decline in the use of fossil fuels, including an end to new approvals of unabated coal-fired power plants.

IEA analysts have been following developments at COP28 closely, and note, in  a new assessment, that pledges have been made in three key areas – by many countries on renewables and energy efficiency, and by a significant number of companies on methane and flaring. While these are positive steps forward in tackling the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, even full delivery on the pledges by all the signatories to date would not be nearly enough to move the world onto a path to reaching international climate targets, in particular the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.

The need for a global agreement at COP28 to double the pace of energy efficiency progress this decade was underscored IEA’s recent ‘Energy Efficiency 2023’ market report. It found that policy makers around the world expanded measures to promote energy efficiency in 2023 – though progress is not moving fast enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Policy momentum for energy efficiency continues to build following the global energy crisis set off by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Investments in efficiency have grown by 45% since 2020, and in the past year, countries representing three-quarters of global energy demand have strengthened energy efficiency policies or introduced new ones. Key measures are also becoming more widespread. For example, almost all countries now have efficiency standards for air conditioners, and the number of countries with standards for industrial motors has tripled within the past decade.

However, the report found that global improvements in energy intensity – a primary measure of energy efficiency – slowed in 2023. To limit global warming to 1.5 °C, annual improvements in energy efficiency need to rise from a level of 2% in 2022 to more than 4% per year on average between now and 2030. In 2023, global energy intensity improved by 1.3%, well below what is needed to achieve this target.