Governments around the world need to do more in order to combat global warming and achieve a sustainable energy supply system, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The Paris-based organisation believes that current commitments made by national governments are collectively inadequate to meet the goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 2°C set out on the Copenhagen Accord.

It also says that the failure of the international community to agree on ambitious, binding goals for greenhouse gas emissions has increased estimated costs of reaching the 2°C goal by $1 trillion.

According to the IEA’s latest World Energy Outlook (WEO) publication, rising demand for fossil fuels is set to continue driving up emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), making the 2°C goal impossible to achieve. The IEA has welcomed the action taken by governments so far to tackle fossil fuel consumption, but says that they “still fall a very long way short of what is required to set us on the path to a truly sustainable energy system”.

The IEA says that the 2010 WEO demonstrates that government policy affects technology development, the price of energy services and end-user behaviour, and therefore will shape the future of energy in the longer term.

“The energy world is facing unprecedented uncertainty,” said Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the IEA. “We need to use energy more efficiently and we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by adopting technologies that leave a much smaller carbon footprint.”

In the WEO’s New Policies Scenario – which takes account of the policy commitments and plans announced by governments around the world – world primary energy demand increases by 36 per cent between 2008 and 2035. Fossil fuels remain dominant in the energy mix, in spite of the increased use of renewable energy and nuclear power.

Non-OECD countries account for 93 per cent of the projected increase in primary energy demand, with China alone accounting for 36 per cent. Non-OECD countries are expected to drive global demand for oil, while oil demand in the OECD will fall, says the IEA.

“It is hard to overstate the growing importance of China in global energy,” said Tanaka. “How the country responds to the threats to global energy security and climate posed by rising fossil-fuel use will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world.”

A key step to reducing demand for fossil fuels is to eliminate subsidies for coal, oil and gas, says the IEA, which says that fossil fuel subsidies amounted to $312 billion in 2009. “Getting the prices right, by eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies, is the single most effective measure to cut energy demand in countries where they persist, while bringing other immediate economic benefits,” said Tanaka, who has called on governments to increase support for renewables.

According to WEO 2010, the share of renewable energy sources – including sustainable hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, modern biomass and marine energy – in global primary energy use triples between 2008 and 2035 and their combined share in total primary energy demand increases from seven per cent to 14 per cent.