Path to Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 is Narrow but Brings Huge Benefits: IEA

The IEA report called for annual additions of solar PV to reach 630 GW by 2030, and wind power to reach 390 GW. Together, this is 4 times the record level set in 2020. For solar PV, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day.

May 18, 2021. By Manu Tayal

The world has a viable pathway to building a global energy sector with net-zero emissions in 2050, but it is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally, said the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a latest report.

In its new report, ‘Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector Climate’ IEA mentioned that, “climate pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – would fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C.”

Highlighting the significance of report, Fatih Birol, Executive Director of IEA, said “our Roadmap shows the priority actions that are needed today to ensure the opportunity of 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,” Dr Birol added. 

The Roadmap sets out over 400 milestones to guide the global journey to net zero by 2050. These include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.

The IEA report called for annual additions of solar PV to reach 630 GW by 2030, and wind power to reach 390 GW. Together, this is 4 times the record level set in 2020. For solar PV, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day.

It further said, a major worldwide push to increase energy efficiency is also an essential part of these efforts, resulting in the global rate of energy efficiency improvements averaging 4 per cent a year through 2030 – about 3 times the average over the last 2 decades.

IEA suggested that, in 2050, almost half the reductions in CO2 come from technologies that are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase. This 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.

IEA predicted that, total annual energy investment surged to USD 5 trillion by 2030 in the net zero pathway, adding an extra 0.4 per cent a year to global GDP growth, based on a joint analysis with the International Monetary Fund.

By 2050, almost 90 per cent of electricity generation comes from renewable sources, with wind and solar PV together accounting for almost 70 per cent, and remainder mostly comes from nuclear power. While, fossil fuels fall from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to slightly over one-fifth.

“Plans need to reflect countries’ differing stages of economic development: in our pathway, advanced economies reach net zero before developing economies,” said Dr Birol.

He further suggested, “Governments need to create markets for investments in batteries, digital solutions and electricity grids that reward flexibility and enable adequate and reliable supplies of electricity. The rapidly growing role of critical minerals calls for new international mechanisms to ensure both the timely availability of supplies and sustainable production.”

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