The International Energy Agency advised governments on Tuesday that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius will require an immediate and massive transformation of all energy systems.
A 224-page special report from the Paris-based intergovernmental organization found nations still have a “viable” yet increasingly “narrow” path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which is considered essential to keep the planet inhabitable. IEA said global energy demand must fall 8 percent by mid-century, despite the projected need to power a world with 2 billion more people in it and a global economy twice as big as now.
The report offers 400 “milestones” to achieve. All new investments in coal, oil and gas projects must end. No new fossil fuel-burning cars can be sold after 2035. Some 70 percent of electricity should come from wind and solar photovoltaic technology — requiring the construction of one new solar park a day that is equal in size to the current world’s largest. Another 20 percent could rely on renewable sources; 10 percent can come from nuclear power.
Energy efficiency also is essential. Improvements must average 4 percent a year through 2030, or triple the average rate of the last two decades. Much more research and development is needed, IEA said, since half of all emissions reductions by 2050 depend on technologies now considered prototypes.
The @IEA just released the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the global energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Our special report shows the pathway to net zero by 2050 is narrow but still achievable if governments act now.
— Fatih Birol (@fbirol) May 18, 2021
Action and cooperation
The United States and the European Union vowed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The treaty committed the world to preventing average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees if possible.
The United Nations’ top official for global climate action said in November that 65 percent of the world body’s 193 member nations, up from 40 percent in 2019, will seek net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But the window is closing due to prior emissions; the world has already warmed by 1.1 degrees.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, a Turkish economist and energy expert, said achieving carbon neutrality will require strong and credible policy actions underpinned by greater international cooperation. It also would add millions of new jobs, he said, and promote global economic growth.
“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,” he said. “The rapidly growing role of critical minerals calls for new international mechanisms to ensure both the timely availability of supplies and sustainable production.”