The world is growing more complacent about efforts to squeeze down the use of energy.
That’s the signal coming from an International Energy Agency report, which found the smallest improvement in efficiency in a decade after demand for fuels of all kinds grew more strongly in 2017.
The report is a blow to policymakers seeking to ratchet back pollution from fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases. The Paris-based energy watchdog that advises governments highlighted measures that could speed up efforts to combat global warming by focusing industry and households on improving the way they use energy.
“There is a slowdown in the implementation of energy efficiency policies across the world,” said Brian Motherway, head of the IEA’s energy efficiency division. “This risks eroding the gains the world has made on energy efficiency. It also means that without stronger policy efforts, the efficiency gains and associated benefits shown in the report to be possible will not be achieved.”
Worldwide, energy intensity, which is a measure of efficiency, fell by 1.7 percent last year, the lowest decline in a decade, according to the IEA report. Demand for energy rose almost 2 percent, roughly triple the pace of the past two years. The bulk of the demand increase came from emerging economies led by China and India.
Were it not for progress on energy efficiency, demand would have been significantly higher last year. Efficiency improvements slowed energy demand by 12 percent, the IEA said. If the world immediately began to ramp up efforts to curb demand and improve efficiency through technology and government policies emissions could be dented by 2040 despite global gross domestic product doubling in that time.
The figures give a glimpse of calculations the IEA is working on for its annual report into world energy use, due for release next month.
Oil demand rose from 96.2 million barrels of oil per day to 97.8 million barrels of oil per day in 2017. The road transport sector accounted for about 50 percent of global final oil consumption, according to the report. Investment in the global electricity supply fell to $750 billion in 2017, although it outpaced oil and natural gas, which attracted $716 billion.
Annual investment in efficiency technology needs to double between now and 2025 and double again after that date, the agency said in its Efficient World Scenario, which assumes markets realize the potential of all known technologies that squeeze back energy consumption. Investment in the kinds of tools needed to help the world in 2017 totaled $236 billion, up 3 percent on the previous year.
Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy use climbed 1.6 percent in 2017 after three years of little change and the agency is predicting another increase in 2018.