Nations risk being locked into fossil fuel dependency through continued investment in natural gas infrastructure, according to a new report by Climate Action Tracker (CAT).
It forecasts a dwindling role for natural gas by the middle of the century due to increased competition from renewables, but reveals that governments and companies are ignoring the increasing role of low-carbon alternatives.
The report argues this will either result in overshooting the Paris Agreement's long-term goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C, or in significant stranded assets as the world shifts to renewables.
"Natural gas is often perceived as a 'clean' source of energy that complements variable renewable technologies," Climate Analytics CEO, Bill Hare, said.
"However, there are persistent issues with fugitive emissions during gas extraction and transport that show gas is not as 'clean' as often thought.
"Natural gas will disappear from the power sector in a Paris Agreement-compatible world, where emissions need to be around zero by mid-century."
The report challenges projections that forecast an increase in natural gas consumption, claiming that they fail to consider the increasing role of renewables.
It cites the International Energy Agency's projection that renewables would make up 7.2% of the power supply in China by 2020, yet by the end of 2016 they had already reached 8%.
Renewables use in India and the Middle East is also rising much faster than mainstream projections, however, large investments into liquefied natural gas pipelines and terminals continue, even as utilisation rates decrease.
The report explains that although the emissions from gas plants can be reduced by up to 90% with carbon capture and storage (CCS), this is not sufficient for full decarbonisation.
It argues that even if these capture rates can be increased, the cost of gas with CCS is unlikely to be competitive with renewables and a flexible grid.
"The idea of a continuing role for natural gas as a bridging technology is not consistent with the reality of advances in flexibility enabling technologies, such as grid expansion, supply and demand response, as well as storage," Ecofys managing consultant, Yvonne Deng, concluded.
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