Net zero achievable by 2050 but more investment and renewable capacity needed, IEA says

Bolder action is required this decade to increase clean energy spending to $4.5 trillion per year by the 2030s

Wind turbines in Runcorn, England. Clean energy investment must grow from $1.8 trillion in 2023 to $4.5 trillion annually by the early 2030s, the IEA said. Getty Images
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Countries can still reach the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but “bolder action” is required this decade to triple renewable energy capacity, more than double clean energy investment and build stronger international co-operation, the International Energy Agency has said.

The world has to increase clean energy spending from the $1.8 trillion expected in 2023 to $4.5 trillion per year by the start of the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the IEA said in its updated Net Zero Roadmap report on Tuesday.

Countries also need to triple the global installed renewables energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts by 2030.

The IEA called for an “equitable transition” taking into account different national circumstances, in which advanced economies reach net zero sooner to allow emerging and developing economies more time.

The world needs to invest $45 billion annually to provide full access to modern sources of energy for all – an amount that represents just 1 per cent of total energy sector investment.

“Governments need to separate climate from geopolitics, given the scale of the challenge at hand,” IEA director Fatih Birol said.

“The pathway to 1.5°C has narrowed in the past two years, but clean energy technologies are keeping it open.”

The report comes as temperatures have hit record levels this year, with the world experiencing its hottest summer ever.

Meanwhile, CO2 emissions reached a record high of 37 billion tonnes in 2022.

However, key clean energy technologies have grown to record highs, making it possible to still achieve the net zero goals by mid-century, the Paris-based agency said.

“With international momentum building behind key global targets such as tripling renewable capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, which would together lead to a stronger decline in fossil fuel demand this decade, the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai is a vital opportunity to commit to stronger ambition and implementation in the remaining years of this critical decade,” Mr Birol said.

World leaders and policymakers will gather at Expo City Dubai from November 30 to complete the first “global stocktake” of how the world is doing in trying to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber says this is the decade to provide clean energy the world needs

Dr Sultan Al Jaber says this is the decade to provide clean energy the world needs

Ramping up renewables, improving energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions and increasing electrification with currently available technologies will deliver more than 80 per cent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030, the IEA said.

A huge policy-driven ramping up of clean energy capacity will drive fossil fuel demand 25 per cent lower by 2030, reducing emissions by 35 per cent compared with the all-time high recorded in 2022, the IEA said.

“Sequencing the increase in clean energy investment and the decline of fossil fuel supply investment is vital if damaging price spikes or supply gluts are to be avoided.”

The report also called for doubling of the annual rate of energy intensity improvement and cutting methane emissions from the energy sector by 75 per cent by 2030.

Total household energy expenditure in emerging markets and developing economies must decrease by 12 per cent from today’s level, and even more in advanced economies, by 2030.

By 2035, emissions need to decline by 80 per cent in advanced economies and 60 per cent in emerging market and developing economies compared to the 2022 level.

“As part of an equitable pathway to the global goal of net zero emissions by 2050, almost all countries need to bring forward their targeted net zero dates,” the IEA said.

“Each country will follow its own route based on its resources and circumstances. However, all must act much more strongly than they are today.”

The agency warned that failure to hit the targets would create additional climate risks and make achieving the 1.5°C goal dependent on the massive deployment of carbon removal technologies that are expensive and unproven at scale.

It urged a “unified effort in which governments put tensions aside and find ways to work together on what is the defining challenge of our time”.

Updated: September 26, 2023, 11:42 AM