A coalition of 45 leaders from global energy producers, energy-intensive industries, financial institutions, and environmental advocates argues in a new report that the world can achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. It also lays out steps needed in the next decade to achieve that objective.
In the report, “Making Mission Possible — Delivering A Net-Zero Economy,” the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) says that clean electrification must be the primary route to decarbonization: it highlights that dramatic falls in cost of renewable energy make this easily affordable and argues that all growth in electricity supply should now come from zero-carbon sources with no need to build any new coal-fired power capacity to support economic growth and rising living standards.
Steps to carbon-free
The report says it is technically and economically possible to have a carbon-free economy by around mid-century at a total cost of less than 0.5% of global GDP by taking three overarching steps:
- Using less energy while improving living standards in developing economies, by achieving dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and shifting to a circular economy;
- Scaling up clean energy provision by building massive generation capacities of cheap, clean power, at a pace five to six times higher than today, as well as expanding other zero-carbon energy sources such as hydrogen;
- Using clean energy across all sectors of the economy by electrifying many applications in buildings, transport and industry, and deploying new technologies and processes using hydrogen, sustainable biomass or carbon capture in sectors that cannot be electrified, like heavy industry or long-distance shipping and aviation.
The ETC estimates that additional investments required to achieve those goals will be in the order of $1 trillion to $2 trillion per year, equivalent to 1% to 1.5% of global GDP. The group claims this represents only a small increase of global investments, which currently amount to about a quarter of global GDP, and would contribute to global economic growth.
3 priorities for the 2020s
The report outlines three critical priorities for the 2020s and practical actions that nations and non-state parties can commit to in the run up to the COP26 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November 2021 to put mid-century objectives within reach.
- Speed up the deployment of proven zero-carbon solutions – governments, investors and corporates need to work hand-in- hand to build up massive capacities of zero-carbon power generation to enable the clean electrification of the economy.
- Create the right policy and investment environment – by removing fossil fuel subsidies, increasing carbon prices and combining them with border carbon adjustments in the absence of an internationally-agreed carbon price, putting in place regulations – like fuel mandates or lifecycle emissions standards for manufactured products – that create additional incentives for decarbonisation where price signals are insufficient, and working with financial institutions to channel investment not only to green activities but also to energy-intensive industries making their transition.
- Bring the next wave of zero-carbon technologies for harder-to-abate sectors to market – so they can be deployed in the 2030s and 2040s, by focusing public and private R&D on – critical technologies (like hydrogen, sustainable fuels or carbon capture), creating demand for new green products and services (through “green buyers’ clubs, public procurement, and product regulations), and financing the first commercial-scale pilots through smart use of de-risking public funds alongside private capital.
The ETC’s blueprint is intended to allow all developed economies to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, including China which has the resources and technology leadership to become a rich developed zero-carbon economy by 2050. All developing nations would be able to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 at the latest, but require development finance to de-risk and attract private green investment.