Policy Remains Key to Reaching Paris Goals

The drop in energy use caused by the coronavirus pandemic is not enough by itself to meet Paris climate ambitions, says DNV GL.


The economic and behavioral ramifications of COVID-19 will reduce the global long-term energy demand significantly and speed up the decline in CO2 emissions. But, that alone will do little to advance the world’s progress toward the Paris climate ambitions, according to DNV GL. The Norwegian firm said recently, “The key to reaching the Paris goals remains policy: the political choices and policy delivered around the world that encourages the correct behavioral changes and enables the right technical solutions to scale.”

In announcing its upcoming 2020 Energy Transition Outlook, DNV GL said that, although CO2 emissions likely peaked in 2019 and energy demand in 2050 will be at almost exactly the level it was in 2018, the energy transition is still nowhere near fast enough to deliver the Paris ambition of keeping global warming below 2°C above preindustrial levels (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1—World energy-related CO2 emissions
with and without COVID-19.


“To reach 1.5° target, we would need to repeat the decline we’re experiencing in 2020 every year from now on,” said Sverre Alvik, the firm’s energy transition program director.

“Emissions have been declining in the first half of this year for the wrong reasons,” Alvik said. “The coronavirus pandemic is exacting a heavy and tragic toll on lives and livelihoods, increasing poverty and hunger, and reducing growth prospects for those that need it most. There is a potential for a much more just and sound energy transition that does not cause the harm and disruption associated with the COVID crisis,” he continued.

“Our view remains firmly that humanity already possesses the technology and knowhow to deliver on Paris. We also have the capacity to modify our behaviors and habits,” said Alvik, explaining that the 2020 outlook will take a renewed look at energy-related behavioral change and explore where and how COVID-19 may permanently affect habits in ways that will either speed or slow the energy transition.

“It is unclear whether the enormous COVID-19 economic stimulus packages being lined up by governments will be spent wisely on renewable energy sources or expeditiously on fossil sources in the hope of bringing larger numbers of people back to employment more rapidly,” Alvik said. He pointed out that current signs show both directions being pursued, with strong regional variations.

“Our assumption is, therefore, that, globally, the sum of the stimulus packages will not significantly impact the energy mix, but that remains an assumption. Time will tell,” Alvik concluded.

The annual DNV GL outlook, which will be launched on 9 September, will include forecasts of the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on renewable and fossil energy supply and demand. Among these are that energy demand from the transport sector will never again reach 2019 levels, demand for manufactured goods globally will need almost 4 years to recover to 2019 levels, and iron and steel may never recover to its prepandemic heights.