Oil industry sees barely a bend in the curve of global emissions

 BP gave us its forecasts for world energy use in mid January. It sees global energy consumption rising by about 1.7% a year to 2030, down slightly on the 1.9% recorded over the last 20 years. Most of the increased use comes from fossil fuels. Here's the BP figures for the increase in fossil fuel use for the period to 2030

Gas  - up 2.1% a year

Oil (including biofuels) – up 0.9% a year

Coal  - up 0.3%

While renewables are forecast to become increasingly important, growing at about 8% a year, this is not enough for low-carbon sources (including nuclear) to provide even half  of the supply to meet the growth in world energy demand.

  2010-2030 1990-2010
Energy use + 1.7% p.a. +1.9%
Increment provided by fossil fuel 64% 83%
Increment from renewables 18% 5%
Expected increase in greenhouse gases from energy use +1.2% +1.9%


If BP is right, CO2 emitted from the burning of fossil fuels rises from about 29 billion tonnes in 2010 to about 38 billion tonnes in 2030. The growth all arises in the developing world and the company says that OECD emissions will be 10% lower in 2030 than they are today. Overall, the BP figures suggest that the world has no hope of achieving the goal of stopping carbon dioxide levels rising above 450 parts per million, the level that many analysts believe is the number that approximately equates to a 2 degree temperature rise.

The International Energy Agency suggests that achieving a peak of 450ppm requires the world to reduce emissions from energy use to below 25 billion tonnes within twenty years but the oil company's figures are over 50% above this figure. If BP is right, the rise in temperatures is likely to be at least 3 degrees and probably 4 degrees, enough to change the distribution of world agriculture and population distribution to an unprecedented extent.

BP’s estimates of greenhouse gas emissions growth are only slightly lower than the IEA’s estimate of the annual percentage change in energy demand with no further mitigation measures over the next 20 years (1.5% for the IEA figure, compared to 1.2% for BP). In other words, BP is deeply pessimistic about the impact of the developed world’s carbon reduction programmes, suggesting that they will have little impact.

As the latest report from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change points out, the national commitments made after the Copenhagen conference by OECD countries would cut emissions by about 55% by 2030, a vastly greater decrease than BP expects will actually happen in the industrial world. Governments are telling a very different story to that offered by the oil companies.