Net Zero by 2050 A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector

We are approaching a decisive moment for international efforts to tackle the climate crisis –a great challenge of our times. The number of countries that have pledged to reach net‐zero emissions by mid‐century or soon after continues to grow, but so do global greenhouse gas emissions. This gap between rhetoric and action needs to close if we are to have a fighting chance of reaching net zero by 2050 and limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 °C.

Doing so requires nothing short of a total transformation of the energy systems that underpin our economies. We are in a critical year at the start of a critical decade for these efforts. The 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November is the focal point for strengthening global ambitions and action on climate by building on the foundations of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has been working hard to support the UK government’s COP26 Presidency to help make it the success the world needs. I was delighted to co‐host the IEA‐ COP26 Net Zero Summit with COP26 President Alok Sharma in March, where top energy and climate leaders from more than 40 countries highlighted the global momentum behind clean energy transitions.

The discussions at that event fed into this special report, notably through the Seven Key Principles for Implementing Net Zero that the IEA presented at the Summit, which have been backed by 22 of our member governments to date. This report maps out how the global energy sector can reach net zero by 2050. I believe the report – Net Zero by 2050: A roadmap for the global energy system – is one of the most important and challenging undertakings in the IEA’s history. The Roadmap is the culmination of the IEA’s pioneering work on energy data modelling, combining for the first time the complex models of our two flagship series, the World Energy Outlook and Energy Technology Perspectives. It will guide the IEA’s work and will be an integral part of both those series going forward.

Despite the current gap between rhetoric and reality on emissions, our Roadmap shows that there are still pathways to reach net zero by 2050. The one on which we focus is – in our analysis – the most technically feasible, cost‐effective and socially acceptable. Even so, that pathway remains narrow and extremely challenging, requiring all stakeholders governments, businesses, investors and citizens – to take action this year and every year
after so that the goal does not slip out of reach.

This report sets out clear milestones – more than 400 in total, spanning all sectors and technologies – for what needs to happen, and when, to transform the global economy from one dominated by fossil fuels into one powered predominantly by renewable energy like solar and wind. Our pathway requires vast amounts of investment, innovation, skilful policy design and implementation, technology deployment, infrastructure building, international
co‐operation and efforts across many other areas.

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