The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called on the energy sector and its government backers to do more, faster, laying out a transitional roadmap to global net-zero emissions by 2050 that it claims will result in ’robust economic growth’
Calling its plan the ’first comprehensive energy roadmap’, the IEA said existing proposals from governments around the world would ’fall well short’ of achieving net-zero emissions and limiting the global temperature rise to the 1.5°C level set forth in the UN’s 2015 Paris Agreement.
The IEA said its report, Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, "sets out a cost-effective and economically productive pathway, resulting in a clean, dynamic and resilient energy economy dominated by renewables like solar and wind instead of fossil fuels".
“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 co-operation,” said IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol.
The IEA roadmap sets out more than 400 milestones it said are needed to reach global net-zero emissions by 2050. Among the milestones are an immediate and complete halt on investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants, and the global electricity sector must reach net-zero emissions by 2040.
Annual solar photovoltaic (PV) energy output would need to reach 630 GW by 2030, the report said, and wind power output must reach 390 GW, globally. Together, these numbers represent four times the record levels set in 2020.
While the report allows for most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 to come from readily available technologies, by 2050, almost half of necessary CO2 reductions would come from technologies that are not yet market ready.
The IEA said the need to scale up preliminary versions of carbon-reduction technologies "demands that governments quickly increase and reprioritise their spending on research and development – as well as on demonstrating and deploying clean energy technologies – putting them at the core of energy and climate policy".
Progress in the areas of advanced batteries, electrolysers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage can be particularly impactful, according to the IEA.
“Our Roadmap shows that the enormous challenge of rapidly transitioning to a net-zero energy system is also a huge opportunity for our economies," Dr Birol said.
"Total annual energy investment surges to US$5Tn by 2030 in the net-zero pathway, adding an extra 0.4 percentage points a year to global GDP growth, based on a joint analysis with the International Monetary Fund. The jump in private and government spending creates millions of jobs in clean energy, including energy efficiency, as well as in the engineering, manufacturing and construction industries. All of this puts global GDP 4% higher in 2030 than it would reach based on current trends," the IEA said.
In the energy mix envisioned by the IEA report, by 2050 almost 90% of electricity generation comes from renewable sources, with wind and solar PV together accounting for almost 70%. Fossil fuel-based energy levels fall from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to slightly over one-fifth.
"No new oil and natural gas fields are needed in the net-zero pathway, and supplies become increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers. OPEC’s share of a much-reduced global oil supply grows from around 37% in recent years to 52% in 2050, a level higher than at any point in the history of oil markets," the IEA said.
The IEA report was completed at the request of the UK Government ahead of its hosting of the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention in Glasgow in November 2021.
In April, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry announced the US would formally engage in IMO-based efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a Biden Administration announcement that the US will target a 50% cut in overall emissions by 2030.
In the context of the upcoming COP26 conference, Mr Kerry said decarbonising shipping is now an official goal of the Biden Administration.
"The United States is committing to work with countries in the International Maritime Organization to adopt the goal of achieving zero emissions from international shipping by 2050 and to adopt ambitious measures that will place the entire sector on a pathway to achieve this goal," Mr Kerry said.
"The technologies we need to decarbonise shipping are known to us. So, they need investment and they need to be scaled up."
Mr Kerry said all nations must "send a clear signal to the industry so they will make those investments in the near future" before announcing a US commitment to pushing IMO decarbonisation efforts further, faster.
"Here’s the bottom line: you can’t solve the climate crisis without addressing the problem of the ocean," Mr Kerry said. "And you cannot solve the ocean crisis without dealing with climate."
"No silos, no separation. Climate is ocean, ocean is climate, and we need a major leg of the Glasgow product that is addressing the ocean."
Riviera Maritime Media will host a Carbon Capture & Storage Webinar Week beginning 18 May, 2021