‘Net Zero by 2050’: Key highlights from the International Energy Agency report

The International Energy Agency’s “Net Zero by 2050” report is the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the global energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Nordea’s Sustainable Finance Advisory brings you key excerpts from the report.

In May, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its one-of-a-kind, comprehensive study on how to transition to a net-zero energy system that is both sustainable, affordable, accessible and robust for future growth by 2050.

Download the full report here.

The IEA noted that the energy sector, as the major source of global emissions, holds the key to responding to the world’s climate challenge. The energy industry’s emissions have increased by 60% since the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, despite governments’ many efforts and pledges to tackle the causes of global warming.

“Global commitments and actions are growing, but they still fall well short of what is needed to limit the rise of temperatures to 1.5⁰C and avert the worst effects of climate change. Our Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap provides a pathway to reach this formidable and critical goal, setting out more than 400 milestones for what needs to be done, and when, to decarbonise the global economy in just three decades,” the agency wrote in its report.

Summary of key milestones

Highlight Context Year
The path to net-zero emissions is narrow Staying on it requires the massive deployment of all available clean energy technologies – such as renewables, EVs and energy efficient building retrofits – between now and 2030.

For solar power, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day.

A surge in clean energy investment can bring jobs and growth To reach net zero emissions by 2050, annual clean energy investment worldwide will need to more than triple by 2030 to around $4 trillion.

This will create millions of new jobs, significantly lift global economic growth, and achieve universal access to electricity and clean cooking worldwide by the end of the decade.

We need to drive huge leaps in clean energy innovation Most of the reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 come from technologies already on the market today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase.

Major innovation efforts must take place this decade in order to bring these new technologies to market in time.

A rapid shift away from fossil fuels Net zero means huge declines in the use of coal, oil and gas.

This requires steps such as halting sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars by 2035, and phasing out all unabated coal and oil power plants by 2040.

Electricity becomes the core of the energy systems It will play a key role across all sectors, from transport and buildings to industry. Electricity generation will need to reach net-zero emissions globally in 2040 and be well on its way to supplying almost half of total energy consumption.

This will require huge increases in electricity system flexibility – such as batteries, demand response, hydrogen-based fuels, hydropower and more – to ensure reliable supplies

New low-emissions industries flourish By 2045, new energy technologies will be widespread.

The vast majority of cars on the roads will be running on electricity or fuel cells, planes will be relying largely on advanced biofuels and synthetic fuels, and hundreds of industrial plants will be using carbon capture or hydrogen around the world.

A clean energy world The global energy sector in 2050 is based largely on renewables, with solar the single largest source of supply. Achieving this cleaner, healthier future will rely on a singular, unwavering focus from all governments, working closely with businesses, investors and citizens.

It will also require greater international cooperation among countries, notably to ensure that developing economies have the financing and technologies they need to reach net zero in time.


Source: IEA report, “Net-zero by 2050,” 2021

The roadmap to net-zero emissions

The report maps out an extremely ambitious transformation of the global energy system.

“The pathway is narrow but achievable, and it would bring major benefits for human prosperity and well-being, providing an opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5⁰C,” the agency writes.

Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will require nothing short of the complete transformation of the global energy system.

"Net Zero by 2050," International Energy Agency

International Energy Agency "Net Zero by 2050" roadmap

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