The world’s energy sector could slash carbon emissions by 70% by 2050 and eliminate them altogether a decade later – while simultaneously boosting the global economy, according to a new study from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The organisations said wider deployment of renewables and energy efficiency measures – allied
with large-scale greening of sectors such as transport and buildings – could by 2050 limit warming
to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.
They estimate the decarbonisation push will need an extra $29 trillion of investment by that date,
equivalent to about 0.4% of global GDP.
But the same programme would also deliver a 0.8% increase to global GDP by mid-century, with
new renewable-focused jobs "more than offsetting" employment losses in fossil sectors, says the
report Investment Needs for a Low-Carbon Energy Transition, which was co-financed by the German
By 2060 energy-related CO2 emissions could be totally eliminated, it reckons.
But the study – released to mark the start of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue event in the
German capital – warns that time is of the essence, with delay translating directly into an increase
in the cost of achieving decarbonisation.
“The energy transition has long ceased to be a national project. It is a global task and a mission for
all of us, as well as a way to ensure a future of prosperity and stability,” said German foreign
minister Sigmar Gabriel, who hosts the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue.
IRENA director-general Adnan Amin said: “The Paris Agreement reflected an unprecedented
international determination to act on climate. The focus must be on the decarbonisation of the
global energy system as it accounts for almost two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Critically, the economic case for the energy transition has never been stronger,” added Amin.
“Today around the world, new renewable power plants are being built that will generate electricity
for less cost than fossil-fuel power plants. And through 2050, the decarbonisation can fuel
sustainable economic growth and create more new jobs in renewables.”
The study says emissions will need to fall to 9.5 gigatonnes of energy-related CO2 by 2050 if the twodegree
target is to be met, down from 32Gt in 2015. It estimates that “90% of this energy CO2
emission reduction can be achieved through expanding renewable energy deployment and
improving energy efficiency”.
Renewables need to account for 80% of power generation and 65% of primary energy supply by the
middle of the century, up from 24% and 16% now.
The report also sets out a list of other advances needed, ranging from a huge expansion in electric
vehicles – which need to be “the predominant car type in 2050” – to high-efficiency electric
buildings becoming “the norm”.
IEA renewable energy head Paolo Frankl told Recharge in an exclusive interview that a wide range
of up-and-coming technologies will need to be deployed alongside wind and solar if global climate
objectives are to be achieved.