“Can we be “net zero” in carbon in the world? I think so, but the efforts will be very important” Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies, is optimistic. But the data communicated by the company shows the scale of the task. Every year, for the past five years, TotalEnergies has communicated its global energy overview. It does not concern the oil group, but rather the global outlook for the sector. For the energy company, the outlook remains difficult. “The energy transition is underway, but we must accelerate today,” estimates Helle Kristoffersen, member of the executive committee of TotalEnergies, who supervised this study.
Evidence of this transition? “We see a decoupling over the last 20 years between GDP growth, at 3.3% per year, primary energy demand, at 1.8%, and CO2 emissions, at 1.7%,” continues Helle Kristoffersen. This decoupling was made possible by better energy efficiency, electrification of uses and an increase in the production of renewable energies. “The increase in renewables over the last five years has responded to 40% of the growth in primary energy demand,” the leader further underlines.
Problem: this transition is not going at all fast enough to really slow down global warming. “If the transformation of the world's energy systems continues according to current trends, the increase in global temperature in 2100 will be more than 3 degrees,” warns Helle Kristoffersen. Which would represent a real disaster. It is therefore absolutely necessary to accelerate this transition. It seems possible. The means are known: we must massively reduce the use of fossil resources, coal in the first place because it is – by far – the most emitting source of CO2 but also gas and oil.
TotalEnergies divides the world into three thirds. In the first, around forty developed countries which have made a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050. The second is made up of China. And the third, from the rest of the world. In mass, each group emits an equivalent amount of CO2, between 10.1 and 11.4 billion tonnes. Per capita, the situation is obviously very different, since each inhabitant of the third group emits 2.2 tonnes of CO2 per year, compared to 7.1 tonnes in China and 9 tonnes in developed countries.
To maintain a global increase in temperature of between 2.1 and 2.2 degrees in 2100, that is to say higher than that of the Paris agreements which aimed to contain the increase below 2 degrees, it would be necessary that countries aiming for carbon neutrality in 2050 but also China, which is aiming for the same level in 2060, are meeting their objective. But we must go further, and ensure that low-carbon energies cover half of the growth in energy demand in emerging countries. “The difficulty is managing the contradictions between short and medium term needs,” analyzes Patrick Pouyanné. This is for example the case when most European countries put in place financial aid for fossil fuels, because energy prices have soared following the war in Ukraine, while it is obviously necessary to bring down the use of these fossil fuels. Or when the same war in Ukraine forces Germany to do without Russian gas, and therefore to turn again to coal. These events show that energy remains an essential good, and that social acceptance is a necessity for a successful transition.
TotalEnergies experts also put forward a third scenario, which they call “rupture” because it assumes a certain number of ruptures. And this last scenario would make it possible to contain the increase in global temperature to 1.7/1.8 degrees, i.e. below the 2 degree barrier. To achieve this, we need massive electrification of uses, very significant development of biogas and bio-fuels, as well as green hydrogen to decarbonize industry. Above all, the richest countries must massively support emerging countries, both financially, technologically and in terms of human know-how. Because it is clear, and they have affirmed it, that these countries legitimately aspire to a higher standard of living, and that they will not hesitate to use the fossil resources available in their subsoil to achieve this. They will need massive support so that these countries do not use these fossil resources, but opt for carbon-free energy. The challenge for rich countries is therefore to succeed in putting this support in place, when they must already find resources to achieve carbon neutrality at home.