In a landmark special report released this week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that there is a visible pathway for the global energy sector to reach net-zero emissions in 2050, but it is extremely narrow and will urgently need a transformation in how energy is produced and used throughout the world- including no more new oil, gas or coal.
According to just released report titled ‘Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector’, even if the climate pledges made by governments are achieved, the world would still not have done enough to keep the global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net-zero by 2050 nor would be able to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C.
Said to be the world’s first detailed study into how the world can transition to a net-zero energy system by 2050 with over 400 milestones, the roadmap speaks about a cost-effective pathway where a clean energy economy is realized with renewables at the forefront instead of fossil fuels and even analyzed the uncertainties that might arise.
The report is crystal clear that from now on, no investments should be made in new fossil fuel supply projects nor for new unabated coal plants and all sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars must end by 2035 leading to the global electricity sector achieving net-zero emissions by 2040 itself. It predicts that the OPEC’s share of a reduced global oil supply will increase from around 37% in recent years to 52% in 2050, marking the highest point in the history of oil markets.
In addition, clean and efficient energy technologies should be deployed across the world while working towards annually adding solar PV to reach 630 gigawatts and wind power should reach 390 gigawatts by 2030 leading to a rise in the global rate of energy efficiency improvements averaging 4% every year through 2030, which will be thrice the average achieved over the last two decades.
In a press release seen by Green Queen, executive director of IEA, Fatih Birol, said that the Roadmap draws attention to the priority actions that are needed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. “Narrow but still achievable – is not lost. The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced. The IEA’s pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation.”
The roadmap highlights several existing technologies that are and will be responsible for reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030, however, in 2050, the reductions are slated to arrive from those technologies that are at the demonstration or prototype stage meaning that governments have to work to support these technologies like advanced batteries, electrolyzers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage.
The IEA’s pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperationFatih Birol, executive director of IEA
The roadmap further outlines how to provide electricity to around 785 million people who don’t have it as well as clean cooking solutions to 2.6 billion who go without, which the report says cost US$40 billion a year, equivalent to just 1% of the average annual energy sector investment. These switches would help reduce air pollution and could lower the premature death rate by 2.5 million a year.
Dr. Birol added that people are at the core of a clean energy transition. “Our Roadmap shows that the enormous challenge of rapidly transitioning to a net zero energy system is also a huge opportunity for our economies. The transition must be fair and inclusive, leaving nobody behind. We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies in a sustainable way.”
If the roadmap is followed, a predicted annual energy investment that will surge to USD 5 trillion by 2030 will help achieve a global GDP that is 4% higher in 2030 and by 2050, the below goals will be in place:
- Global energy demand is 8% smaller than today, however, is serving an economy twice as big and a population of 2 billion more people.
- Around 90% of electricity is generated from renewable sources, with wind and solar PV together accounting close to 70%.
- The remaining comes from nuclear power.
- The world’s single largest source of total energy supply arrives from solar.
- Fossil fuels plunge down from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to just over one-fifth.
- Fossil fuels that do still exist are used in goods where the carbon is in the material itself like plastics, or facilities that capture carbon and sectors where clean energy solutions are rare.
We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies in a sustainable wayFatih Birol, executive director of IEA
The report was requested by the U.K. government’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention Presidency to drive crucial negotiations at the event.
COP26 president-designate Alok Sharma welcomed the report and stated that it is a clear roadmap to reach net-zero emissions. “It shares many of the priorities we have set as the incoming COP Presidency – that we must act now to scale up clean technologies in all sectors and phase out both coal power and polluting vehicles in the coming decade. I am encouraged that it underlines the great value of international collaboration, without which the transition to global net zero could be delayed by decades. Our first goal for the U.K. as COP26 Presidency is to put the world on a path to driving down emissions until they reach net zero by the middle of this century.”
The full report is available here.
Lead image courtesy of Pixabay.