IEA unveils net-zero carbon emissions roadmap

All future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
IEA unveils net-zero carbon emissions roadmap

Arrays of photovoltaic solar panels are seen at the Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South in this aerial photo taken over El Centro, California, US.

All future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to stand any chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.

In a special report designed to inform negotiators at the crucial COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, the IEA predicted a “sharp decline in fossil fuel demand” in the next three decades as well as a 2040 deadline for the global energy sector to achieve carbon neutrality.

The Paris-based think tank called for a rapid and vast ramping up of renewable energy investment and capacity, which bring gains in development, wealth and human health.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said the roadmap outlined in the report showed that the path to global net-zero by 2050 was “narrow but achievable.”

“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 degrees Celsius — make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” he said.

Built using its industry network and energy modeling tools, the IEA’s roadmap lays out more than 400 milestones on the path to net-zero by mid-century, including “no new oil and gas fields approved for development” beyond projects that are already committed as of 2021.

It predicts “a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand, meaning that the focus for oil and gas producers switches entirely to output — and emissions reductions — from the operation of existing assets.”

The roadmap also said that sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars would have to end in 2035 and energy efficiency would need to improve 4 percent annually this decade — around three times faster than now.

With annual additions of solar and wind power reaching 630 and 390 gigawatts, respectively, by 2030, the IEA said that investment in renewables could put global GDP 4 percent higher by 2050 than it would be based on current trends.

By 2050, it said that renewables capacity and greater efficiency would see global energy demand drop about 8 percent compared to today, even as 2 billion more people gain access to electricity.

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