【Report】IEA updates landmark report “Net Zero Emissions by 2050”

On September 26, 2023, The International Energy Agency (IEA) released an update to its landmark report “Net Zero Roadmap: A Global Pathway to Keep the 1.5°C Goal in Reach”.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the report “Net Zero Emissions by 2050:A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector”, originally released in May 2021, which shows a recommended roadmap for the world’s energy sector to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. IEA’s net zero scenario in 2050 (NZE) has served as an essential benchmark for policy makers, industry, the financial sector and civil society.

This new version provides an updated roadmap to achieving net zero by 2050 based on changes and progress in the energy landscape since 2021, such as the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, record-breaking CO2 emissions from the energy sector, and the significant development and implementation of clean energy technologies.

In the updated net zero scenario, a huge policy-driven ramping up of clean energy capacity drives fossil fuel demand 25% lower by 2030, reducing emissions by 35% compared with the all-time high recorded in 2022. By 2050, fossil fuel demand falls by 80%.

Key Findings from the Executive Summary

  • The path to 1.5 °C has narrowed, but clean energy growth is keeping it open
    • The case for transforming the global energy system in line with the 1.5 °C goal has never been stronger.
    • Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy sector reached a new record high of 37 billion tonnes (Gt) in 2022, 1% above their pre-pandemic level, but are set to peak this decade.
    • Positive developments over the past two years include solar PV installations and electric car sales tracking in line with the milestones set out for them in the 2021 Net Zero by 2050 report.
  • Ramping up renewables, improving energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions and increasing electrification with technologies available today deliver more than 80% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030.
    • Strong growth in clean energy and other policy measures together lead to energy sector CO2 emissions falling by 35% by 2030 compared to 2022.
  • Renewables and efficiency are key to drive fossil fuel demand down
    • Tripling global installed renewables capacity to 11 000 gigawatts by 2030 provides the largest emissions reductions to 2030 in the NZE Scenario.
    • Doubling the annual rate of energy intensity improvement by 2030 in the NZE Scenario saves the energy equivalent of all oil consumption in road transport today, reduces emissions, boosts energy security and improves affordability.
    • These two actions reduce fossil fuel demand, enabling continued adherence to a key milestone of our 2021 report: an immediate end to new approvals of unabated coal plants.
  • Accelerating electrification and cutting methane are also essential
    • Booming technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps drive electrification across the energy system, providing nearly one-fifth of the emissions reductions to 2030 in the NZE Scenario.
    • Cutting methane emissions from the energy sector by 75% by 2030 is one of the least cost opportunities to limit global warming in the near term.
  • Innovation is already delivering new tools and lowering their cost
    • In the 2021 NZE Scenario, technologies not available on the market at the time delivered nearly half of the emissions reductions needed in 2050 to reach net zero; that number has fallen to around 35% in this update.
  • Still need to do much more, notably on infrastructure
    • Today much of the momentum is in small, modular clean energy technologies like solar PV and batteries, but these alone are not sufficient to deliver net zero emissions.
    • Electricity transmission and distribution grids need to expand by around 2 million kilometers each year to 2030 to meet the needs of the NZE Scenario.
    • Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels, and sustainable bioenergy are critical to achieve net zero emissions; rapid progress is needed by 2030.
  • Increasing clean energy investment in developing countries is vital
    • The world is set to invest a record USD 1.8 trillion in clean energy in 2023: this needs to climb to around USD 4.5 trillion a year by the early 2030s to be in line with our pathway.
  • As clean energy expands and fossil fuel demand declines in the NZE Scenario, there is no need for investment in new coal, oil and natural gas
    • Stringent and effective policies in the NZE Scenario spur clean energy deployment and cut fossil fuel demand by more than 25% by 2030 and 80% in 2050.
    • No new long-lead time upstream oil and gas projects are needed in the NZE Scenario, neither are new coal mines, mine extensions or new unabated coal plants.
    • The drop in fossil fuel demand and supply reduces traditional risks to energy security, but they do not disappear – especially in a complex and low trust geopolitical environment.
  • The net zero emissions transition must be secure and affordable
    • Particular attention needs to be paid to bridging the looming supply and demand gap for critical minerals.
    • Extraordinary advances in clean energy technology supply chains have kept the door to net zero emissions open, but have been accompanied by a high degree of geographical concentration.
    • As electricity becomes increasingly crucial in the global energy system in the NZE Scenario, secure electricity supplies become even more important.
    • By 2030 in the NZE Scenario, total household energy expenditure in emerging market and developing economies decreases by 12% from today’s level, and even more in advanced economies.
  • There is no route to limiting warming to 1.5 °C with low international co-operation – and no slow route either
    • By 2035, emissions need to decline by 80% in advanced economies and 60% 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’s “Delayed Action Case” shows that failure to increase ambition to 2030 would create additional climate risks and make achieving the 1.5 °C goal dependant on the massive deployment of carbon removal technologies which are expensive and unproven at scale.
  • The fierce urgency of now
    • The energy sector is changing faster than many people think, but much more needs to be done, and time is short.

The energy sector has undergone major shifts in the last two years since the previous report was published in 2021.

CO2 emissions from the energy sector are still at alarmingly high levels and have not declined as estimated in the 2021 report. The energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became a factor in narrowing the path towards achieving the 1.5 °C goal, with increased demand for fossil fuel and investment in supply. On the other hand, we still have hope that implementation of clean energy is rapidly increasing at an unprecedented speed.

Nearly 90% of the countries have updated their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted under the Paris Agreement. If these countries can reduce CO2 emissions to meet their revised NDC targets, emissions in 2030 will be lowered by approximately 5 gigatons (Gt) from their original NDCs, but meeting the 2030 target under the NZE scenario is crucial.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol stated “Keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C requires the world to come together quickly. The good news is we know what we need to do – and how to do it. Our 2023 Net Zero Roadmap, based on the latest data and analysis, shows a path forward”. He continued, “But we also have a very clear message: Strong international cooperation is crucial to success. Governments need to separate climate from geopolitics, given the scale of the challenge at hand.”

Japan’s current NDC cannot be called ambitious. This updated report repeatedly insists that, in order to reduce demand for fossil fuel, new unabated coal plants should be stopped immediately and new development of oil and gas mining is not necessary. Japan should follow these recommendations and stop construction of coal-fired power plants, phase out existing facilities early, and stop gas related projects.

Related Links

IEA Press Release : The path to limiting global warming to 1.5 °C has narrowed, but clean energy growth is keeping it open(Link
Explore Report : Net Zero Roadmap: A Global Pathway to Keep the 1.5 °C Goal in Reach(Link

Written/Published by: IEA
Published: September 26, 2023