Can we overcome our dependence on fossil fuels?

Almost 85% of global energy still comes from coal, gas or oil but we need to move the needle towards renewables fast if we are to achieve our climate goals


  • Modus staff

19 November 2021

Sphere of connected lines

A major part of the push towards becoming a net zero world is the need to get more of our energy from clean, renewable sources. As COP26 in Glasgow proved, there are a lot of difficult decisions for countries aiming to wean themselves off coal or oil and onto more sustainable energy, such as wind and solar.

However, the impact it could have on the built environment is enormous. Traditional concrete manufacturing processes which rely on coal and coke, could make way for modern, greener concrete production. Homes that can generate their own energy through photovoltaics could not only reduce a family’s carbon footprint but save them money too.

Modus takes a deep dive into the data of energy production and consumption to ask whether we are moving to renewable sources fast enough.

Transforming our emissions

This table shows the different outcomes between our planned emissions scenario (PES) and transforming emissions scenario (TES). In the PES, we make very little progress on reducing our emissions by 2050 and in some cases, such as transport, our emissions actually increase.

However, if a series of national-level climate actions are taken, we could follow the TES pathway and drastically reduce emissions in a range of areas. TES is the more ambitious plan to get us closer to 1.5oC climate change targets.

How did COP26 fare on energy policy?

While a Glasgow Climate Pact was finally agreed upon, hours after the official end of COP26, it was widely reported that the language around phasing out coal had been “watered down”. India and China were the principal agents in changing the language from ‘phasing out’ coal, to ‘phasing down’ its use.

Despite this, German environment minister, Svenja Schulze said: "The fossil fuel era is coming to an end, the energy transition is becoming the guiding principle worldwide. I would have liked the statements on the coal phase-out to be clearer, but the path is now mapped out and will be irreversible."


Don’t miss a single Modus article – sign up for the newsletter.


Read more Modus articles on energy

Energy crisis

Why is Europe facing a gas crisis and how can it be prevented in future? Modus speaks to energy expert Richard Palmer to find out if accelerating the transition to clean energy is the answer Read more

Texas blackout

When the lights went out in Texas during the ice storms earlier this year, some people believed it was an accident waiting to happen. Was it underinvestment rather than the weather that caused the power cuts? Read more

Power to the people

The way we power our homes has come a long way since the days of burning wood and coal to heat rooms and cook meals. Some super-modern homes can even claim to be carbon neutral Read more