BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Global natural gas production will need to grow by 70 percent if the world is to start reducing carbon dioxide emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change, according to a study released on Tuesday.
World gas demand will rise to 4.8 trillion cubic meters per year by 2030 from 2.8 trillion cubic meters today, the study by the International Gas Union concluded.
The world needs more low-carbon fuels, such as natural gas, to replace coal and to provide reliable back-ups for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar that depend on the weather.
"Demand from traditional sectors will increase ... (and) natural gas will also play a new role as a complementary fuel to renewables by enabling increased deployment of energy supply from intermittent renewable technologies," said the International Gas Union, whose members account for about 95 percent of global natural gas output
A United National panel of climate scientists warned in 2007 that carbon emissions must peak by 2015 at the latest to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Global talks aimed at drawing up a new international emissions reduction treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol have moved slowly as some poorer nations have urged rich countries to accept deep cuts in their emissions levels as a condition for any deal.
The substitution of natural gas for coal as the provider of base load electricity and energy supplies will be driven by cost considerations as the price of carbon emissions begins to be considered, doubling the cost of coal-fired power generation, the study concluded.
Renewables are expected to provide 26 percent of world energy needs by 2030 while coal's share of the global energy market will decline to only 14 percent. Gas would hold a 28 percent share of the global energy market, compared with 21 percent today.
Carbon dioxide emissions from all fuel sources would decline to 27.2 billion metric tons a year by 2030 from approximately 30 billion metric tons today.
The IGU's baseline scenario, which does not take into account any international agreement to cut emissions, envisions world gas demand rising to 4.3 trillion cubic meters per year and annual CO2 emissions climbing by 11 billion metric tons per year to 41.6 billion metric tons by 2030.
"Gas is the enabler fuel," said IGU President Ernesto Anadon.
"The biggest constraints we face are geopolitical and cannot be solved nationally. We need international agreements and international solutions."
The willingness of many gas-importing nations, particularly in Europe, to rely on natural gas to meet their energy needs has been blunted in recent years by unexpected disruptions in supplies from Russia, experts acknowledged at the World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires this week.
Disputes between Moscow and so-called transit nations such as Ukraine that host the pipelines that carry gas to Europe have led to sudden reductions in gas supplies, propelling the issue of energy security up the agenda in many European nations.
Reporting by Robert Campbell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker