The net-zero pathway requires immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies, combined with a major global push to accelerate innovation, according to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) special report released Tuesday.
The pathway calls for annual additions of 630 gigawatts of solar PV and 390 gigawatts of wind power by 2030, the IEA's Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector report found.
"Together, this is four 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," the report said.
A push for energy efficiency is also an essential part of these efforts to enable the global rate of energy efficiency improvements to average 4% a year through 2030 – about three times the average over the last two decades.
- Climate pledges are not enough for net zero by 2050
According to the agency, climate pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – will fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050.
Most reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 in the net-zero pathway come from technologies readily available today.
However, the report found that by 2050 almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase.
This demands that governments quickly increase and reprioritize their spending on research and development.
The agency said that progress in the areas of advanced batteries, electrolyzers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage can be particularly impactful.
- 785 million have no access to electricity
The report stipulated that an integral part of the roadmap’s net-zero pathway allows for the provision of electricity to around 785 million people and clean cooking solutions to 2.6 billion people.
This would cost around $40 billion a year, equal to around 1% of average annual energy sector investment, it said.
Total annual energy investment surges to $5 trillion by 2030 in the net-zero pathway, adding an extra 0.4 percentage points a year.
By 2050, the energy world looks completely different with an 8% reduction is global energy demand serving an economy more than twice as big and a population with 2 billion more people.
The agency forecasts that almost 90% of electricity generation will come from renewable sources with wind and solar PV together accounting for almost 70%, while most of the remainder will come from nuclear power.
- Oil and natural gas production to decline
The agency explained that new energy security challenges will emerge on the way to net zero by 2050 while longstanding ones will remain, even as the role of oil and gas diminishes.
"The contraction of oil and natural gas production will have far-reaching implications for all the countries and companies that produce these fuels," the agency stated.
It explained no new oil and natural gas fields are needed in the net-zero pathway, and that supplies will become increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers.
The agency also predicts that OPEC's share of a much-reduced global oil supply will grow from around 37% in recent years to 52% in 2050, a level higher than at any point in the history of oil markets.
Commenting on the report, Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director, said "the scale and speed of efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 Celsius degree – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced."
The pathway, although global in scope, requires each country to design its own strategy, taking into account its own specific circumstances.
"Nonetheless, it anticipates that advanced economies will reach net zero before developing economies," he added.
By Gulsen Cagatay and Nuran Erkul Kaya