Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal, fuel oil or natural gas, formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. They are a major source of energy globally, however burning fossil fuels for energy contributes to rising emissions which drives climate change.
What is fossil fuel power?
Fossil fuel energy includes a large list of different sources that can used as power. In energy statistics, coal, manufactured gases, peat, shale and oil sands, oil and natural gases all considered part of this group1.
Major fossil fuel companies profit from burning fossil fuels, including multinational oil and gas company, BP2. However, fossil fuel companies have come under criticism for their stance and impact on climate change. Since 1965, 20 companies have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide3. These offenders are household names around the world and spend billions of pounds on lobbying governments and portraying themselves as environmentally responsible.
Carbon emissions and climate change
Scientists recognise that the burning of fossil fuels over the last century has increased the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Estimates suggest that roughly 80% of all manmade carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions originate from fossil fuels combustion.
According to the IPCC, in order to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees celsius, fossil fuel emissions must be halved by 2030. In order to achieve this, large scale divestment and a shift from fossil fuel reliance is necessary. Renewable energy sources present an environmentally and economically sound alternative4.
Are there alternatives to fossil fuel power?
Over the last century, rising carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels has contributed to serious environmental impacts globally. We cannot continue along the same trajectory if we want any chance of meeting our climate targets. Low-carbon solutions provide a sustainable alternative and align with global clean energy growth trends.
Renewable energy sources offer a cost-effective solution, and compared with fossil fuels, have little to no negative environmental impact5. Examples include wind, solar power, biomass, hydroelectricity, and geothermal.
While the expansion of renewables slowed in 2019, the total renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuel growth by a factor of 2.6, according to IRENA. Solar and wind contributed 90% of the total renewable capacity added in 20196.