Published in Pembina Institute (2021-05-13)
Image: Karen Rose Photography
IEA special report to provide global roadmap to net-zero
The International Energy Agency’s new analysis will show what limiting global warming means for the energy sector.
On May 18, the International Energy Agency (IEA) will release a special report, Net-Zero in 2050: A roadmap for the global energy system. This will be the first time that the agency will publish a full scenario describing how the global energy system could achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
The publication of the report is part of the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November so that countries are provided with a tool to support the rapid reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. GHG emissions associated with energy production account for approximately 35 per cent of global emissions. Adding the energy used for transportation and in buildings (20 per cent) shows that these three sectors alone account for 55 per cent of global emissions. This means that to limit global warming, we will need to quickly decarbonize global energy systems.
In creating a net-zero energy roadmap to 2050, the IEA report will contribute much-needed analysis and vision for how this goal can be accomplished. Charged with producing the influential World Energy Outlook, the IEA has long been criticized for conservative outlooks that underestimate the rate of adoption of clean energy and fail to provide a clear pathway for keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.
Last year, the World Energy Outlook 2020 presented an initial net-zero scenario but the modelling projected out to 2030 rather than 2050. This year, the report will deliver a scenario that depicts energy supply and demand trajectories to 2050.
Is achieving net-zero emissions the same as limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees?
A significant feature of Net-zero in 2050 is that it will show how global energy systems can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and how to ensure that the pathway is consistent with 1.5 degrees of warming. While limiting warming to 1.5 degrees requires net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, the inverse is not true. Global warming is determined by cumulative emissions in the atmosphere. Net-zero targets (in general) relate the balance of emissions at one point in time. If global emissions remain high for another decade or two and then decline steeply to net-zero in 2050, we will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. It’s not just the destination that matters, the journey to net-zero is critical.
This article was Published in Pembina Institute (2021-05-13)