IEA Updates Net Zero Roadmap, 1.5 Degree Limit Still Possible

Solar panels installed in an open field

(Credit: Flickr)

by | Sep 27, 2023

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a new edition of its Net Zero Roadmap, which emphasizes the continued rapid growth of renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuels, and global cooperation to support developing countries’ clean energy transition.

The 2023 report offers an update to the IEA’s original Roadmap, published in 2021, taking into account the considerable growth of clean energy technologies, increased investment in fossil fuels, and record-breaking global emissions levels in recent years. According to the IEA, the politics of energy and fossil fuels must be left behind in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius requires the world to come together quickly,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The good news is we know what we need to do – and how to do it. Our 2023 Net Zero Roadmap, based on the latest data and analysis, shows a path forward. But we also have a very clear message: Strong international cooperation is crucial to success. Governments need to separate climate from geopolitics, given the scale of the challenge at hand.”

Solar Power and EV Sales on Track for Net Zero

According to the report, electric vehicle sales and solar power capacity are currently on track to reach net zero goals. These two technologies combined account for one-third of overall emissions reductions needed by 2030. Technological innovations have helped supplement this growth, making EVs and solar power more affordable.

Bold action towards upscaling renewables and reducing energy sector emissions this decade still remains key to reaching net zero. The IEA cites the need to triple renewable power capacity by 2030, in line with the target set in place at the recent G20 summit. Additionally, the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements must double, EV and heat pump sales must continue to increase, and energy sector methane emissions must drop by 75%.

Altogether, these efforts would provide 80% of global emissions reductions needed to limit temperature rise.

Roadmap Outlines Pathway to an Equitable Global Transition

The IEA urges advanced economies to set net-zero goals sooner than currently planned, allowing developing economies more time to catch up in the clean energy transition. Increased investment in emerging and developing economies is also crucial.

Global cooperation to support the phasing out of fossil fuels paired with ramping up of clean energy would allow fossil fuel demand to drop by 25% by 2030, accounting for a 35% reduction in emissions from the recorded all-time high in 2022. Along this pathway, fossil fuel demand drops by 80% by 2050, and new oil, gas, and coal projects will not be necessary to meet global energy needs.

The failure of international cooperation toward reducing emissions would lead to massive reliance on carbon capture technologies, an expensive route without proven results. The IEA recommends avoiding this pathway at all costs, working instead to avoid emissions from the source.

With such high emissions in 2022 and concerns over the increased number of climate change-caused natural disasters, doubts have arisen over the feasibility of meeting the 1.5-degree target. Although the pathway to 1.5 degrees has seemingly narrowed, the IEA claims that clean energy technologies have kept this goal possible.

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