Where problems once used to be geographically restricted, climate change is turning out to be a global and unprecedented challenge for humanity. The issue we are facing is all about an excess of gases accumulating in our planet’s atmosphere. Neither greenhouse gases nor trapped heat are restricted by national borders, fences and checkpoints. Rather, they distribute evenly everywhere, causing problems for us all – especially for future generations. We cannot afford to delude ourselves, we cannot solve this challenge at a local level. We must show solidarity and cooperate on a global level.
There is too much CO₂ in the atmosphere, and given that the major part of this CO₂ originates from our energy system, there is a need for radical changes. Such a makeover demands international cooperation on a scale that we are not used to, open-minded solutions that work, and a willingness to act fast. The energy sector hasn’t historically been the quickest to transform itself – rather opting for incremental changes and improvements.
As with all global emergencies, this one requires a global perspective. Our consumption of fossil energy keeps growing, when it should be decreasing dramatically. We are still adding carbon into the atmosphere, and not removing it. A global point of view also tells us that we must start working together across and beyond national and regional borders. Our solutions should be just as transgressive.
Over the coming decades we need to make wise political decisions, and reach conclusions backed by verified science. Disruptive and smart innovations, and individual consumer choices will also push companies in the right direction. We do, however, have a long way to go. The situation is critical and various future forecasts continue to create additional causes for alarm.
Though the annual growth rate of our population has been declining compared to the recent past, (currently around 1%), there will still be around 81 million newcomers into this world – annually. It is hard to comprehend that there are currently over 7.7 billion of us inhabiting this planet as we speak, and by 2057 there will be 10 billion. That’s far more than our planet can endure with the current situation. Simultaneously, we’re facing a socioeconomic challenge to provide the whole population with similar living conditions, and possibilities for financial stability.
The global population is growing, and so are the standards of living. Our global gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to double by the year 2040, but as GDP does not take into consideration welfare distribution, this is not to say that a global increase in living standards is equally distributed. The big drivers for both global population and GDP growth will be emerging markets and developing economies, especially in Africa and Asia. This imbalanced development has consequences for our energy systems and provides us with a dilemma in terms of energy efficiency, and a need to transition towards a more sustainable energy mix.
We all need energy – it is that simple. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), our global energy consumption grew by 2.3 per cent in the year 2018 – faster than ever – resulting in higher global CO₂ emissions. As the consumption of energy rose, so did the demand for primary energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas. Although there’s been a significant increase in the use of renewable energy sources, the increase in demand was primarily met with fossil energy.
According to IEA, global energy-related CO₂ emissions in 2018 were the highest ever, approximating 33.1 gigatons (Gt). In 2019 the emissions flattened at around 33 Gt.
We’ve outlined, in the premise of our report, the global energy challenge we see as an energy company. In the following chapters, we’ll delve into these rather concerning issues in more detail, but we shall also explore possible solutions.
Our behaviour lies at the root of our energy challenge and the increasing population, economy and energy demand multiply its effect.
There are good reasons to believe that current policies and mitigation tools are far from what we need. They are not strong enough to achieve the objective of the Paris Climate Agreement of limiting global warming to well below 2°C.