Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector
The energy sector is the source of around three‐quarters of greenhouse gas emissions today and holds the key to averting the worst effects of climate change, perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has faced. Reducing global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050 is consistent with efforts to limit the long‐term increase in average global temperatures to 1.5 °C. This calls for nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport and consume energy. The growing political consensus on reaching net zero is cause for considerable optimism about the progress the world can make, but the changes required to reach net‐zero emissions globally by 2050 are poorly understood. A huge amount of work is needed to turn today’s impressive ambitions into reality, especially given the range of different situations among countries and their differing capacities to make the necessary changes. This special IEA report sets out a pathway for achieving this goal, resulting in a clean and resilient energy system that would bring major benefits for human prosperity and well‐being.
The global pathway to net‐zero emissions by 2050 detailed in this report requires all governments to significantly strengthen and then successfully implement their energy and climate policies. Commitments made to date fall far short of what is required by that pathway. The number of countries that have pledged to achieve net‐zero emissions has grown rapidly over the last year and now covers around 70% of global emissions of CO2. This is a huge step forward. However, most pledges are not yet underpinned by near‐term policies and measures. Moreover, even if successfully fulfilled, the pledges to date would still leave around 22 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions worldwide in 2050. The continuation of that trend would be consistent with a temperature rise in 2100 of around 2.1 °C. Global emissions fell in 2020 because of the Covid‐19 crisis but are already rebounding strongly as economies recover. Further delay in acting to reverse that trend will put net zero by 2050 out of reach.
In this Summary for Policy Makers, we outline the essential conditions for the global energy sector to reach net‐zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The pathway described in depth in this report achieves this objective with no offsets from outside the energy sector, and with low reliance on negative emissions technologies. It is designed to maximise technical feasibility, cost‐effectiveness and social acceptance while ensuring continued economic growth and secure energy supplies. We highlight the priority actions that are needed today to ensure the opportunity of net zero by 2050 – narrow but still achievable – is not lost. The report provides a global view, but countries do not start in the same place or finish at the same time: advanced economies have to reach net zero before emerging markets and developing economies, and assist others in getting there. We also recognise that the route mapped out here is a path, not necessarily the path, and so we examine some key uncertainties, notably concerning the roles played by bioenergy, carbon capture and behavioural changes. Getting to net zero will involve countless decisions by people across the world, but our primary aim is to inform the decisions made by policy makers, who have the greatest scope to move the world closer to its climate goals.
Download the report below.