Net Zero Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector

Anna Triponel

October 2, 2023
Our key takeaway: The stats are in. We have set a record high in the amount of CO2 emissions we released from the global energy sector, which were 1% above pre-pandemic levels. The 1.5°C pathway is rapidly closing and we’re already seeing devastating impacts on the ground - and no region is immune. Take Europe for example, where 61,000 recorded deaths were attributable to heat stress. The International Energy Agency (IEA), however, does give us reason to see the situation more positively. This includes the rapid development and deployment of clean energy technologies and the fact that we have the tools to tackle global warming already at our fingertips. This optimism must be balanced with a renewed focus on efforts to (1) accelerate momentum towards the clean energy transition, which includes “ramping up renewables, improving energy efficiency, cutting methane emissions and increasing electrification”; (2) increase international cooperation, including investing in the clean energy capacities of developing nations; and last but by no means least, (3) ensure that the transition works for everyone and leaves no one behind. The IEA issues a call to action: “All of us, and in particular future generations, will remember with gratitude those who act upon the urgency of now.”

IEA published Net Zero Roadmap: A Global Pathway to Keep the 1.5°C Goal in Reach 2023 Update (September 2023):

  • “The path to 1.5°C has narrowed, but clean energy growth is keeping it open”: The report highlights how CO2 emissions from the global energy sector reached record highs in 2022 to “1% above their pre-pandemic levels.” More positively, the IEA predicts that demand for fossil fuels will peak this decade given the speed at which clean energy technologies are developed and deployed. Indeed, the scaling up of clean energy is the main driver of a decline in fossil fuel demand of over 25% this decade in the Net-Zero Emissions (NZE) Scenario. However, this must be coupled with strong policy measures, such as “early retirement or repurposing of coal-fired power plants.”
  • “The net zero emissions transition must be secure and affordable”: The report highlights several challenges the critical minerals market will face as we accelerate towards a cleaner economy. This includes (1) how demand for critical minerals will outstrip supply in the NZE Scenario in 2030 and the need to bridge this gap through “[n]ew projects, innovative extraction techniques, more recycling and material-efficient design”; (2) how clean energy technology supply chains are highly concentrated in certain geographies and the risks that this poses (such as “increased risk of disruption, such as from geopolitical tensions, extreme weather events or a simple industrial accident”); and (3) how secure electricity supplies are important as electricity becomes the “new oil” of the global energy system in the NZE Scenario. This requires “massive growth of battery energy storage and demand response” and “modernised and cyber secure transmission and distribution grids” among other factors.
  • “We have the tools needed to go much faster”: The report issues a call to action that we need to accelerate the move towards a NZE Scenario in 2030, and we have the resources to do this now. Immediate and short-term actions that we can take include (1) “Tripling global installed renewables capacity to 11 000 gigawatts by 2030”; (2) “Cutting methane emissions from the energy sector by 75% by 2030”, one of the least costly opportunities; (3) Develop “large new, smarter and repurposed infrastructure networks”; (4) Increase clean energy investment in developing countries; (5) Almost all countries “need to bring forward their targeted net zero dates” because international cooperation is key to tackle global warming; and (6) Ensure that the transition and acceleration towards the 1.5°C goal works for everyone and no-one is left behind.

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