The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released an updated edition of its landmark Net Zero Roadmap, highlighting the crucial role of clean energy growth in preserving the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The new roadmap underscores the need for greater ambition, international cooperation, and rapid momentum in various sectors to achieve climate goals. The 2023 update of the Net Zero Roadmap provides a comprehensive global pathway to ensure that the 1.5°C target remains attainable. It builds upon the original report published in 2021, which has since become a fundamental reference point for policymakers, industry leaders, financial institutions, and civil society. The report acknowledges significant changes in the energy landscape over the past two years, including the post-pandemic economic rebound, remarkable growth in clean energy technologies, increased investments in fossil fuels, and persistently high emissions.
One of the IEA report’s key findings is that the record growth in solar power capacity and electric vehicle (EV) sales align with the trajectory toward global net-zero emissions by mid-century. These two technologies alone are projected to contribute one-third of the required emissions reductions between now and 2030. Additionally, clean energy innovation has expanded options and lowered technology costs, reducing the reliance on yet-to-be-marketed technologies for emissions reductions.
However, the IEA report emphasizes the necessity for more substantial action in the current decade. The updated net-zero pathway calls for a tripling of global renewable power capacity by 2030, a doubling of the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements, a significant increase in EV and heat pump sales, and a 75% reduction in energy sector methane emissions. These proven, often cost-effective strategies are expected to deliver over 80% of the required emissions reductions by the end of the decade.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol stated, “Keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires the world to come together quickly. 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.”
While the roadmap outlines a path to achieving net-zero emissions in the global energy sector by 2050, it recognizes the importance of an equitable transition, considering different national circumstances. Advanced economies are expected to reach net zero earlier, allowing emerging and developing economies more time to adapt. The pathway also aims to provide full access to modern energy for all by 2030, requiring annual investments of nearly USD 45 billion per year, slightly over 1% of energy sector investment.
Nonetheless, maintaining this trajectory necessitates that nearly all countries accelerate their targeted net-zero dates and mobilize substantial increases in investment, particularly in emerging and developing economies. In the updated net-zero scenario, global clean energy spending is projected to rise from USD 1.8 trillion in 2023 to USD 4.5 trillion annually by the early 2030s.
The IEA report highlights that policy-driven expansion of clean energy capacity will reduce fossil fuel demand by 25% by 2030, resulting in a 35% reduction in emissions compared to the all-time high recorded in 2022. By 2050, fossil fuel demand is expected to plummet by 80%, rendering new long-lead-time upstream oil and gas projects, new coal mines, mine extensions, and unabated coal plants unnecessary. However, continued investment in some existing oil and gas assets and already approved projects is still required. Managing the increase in clean energy investment alongside the decline of fossil fuel supply investment is critical to avoiding damaging price spikes and supply gluts.
The report underscores the importance of establishing resilient and diverse supply chains for clean energy technologies and critical minerals essential for their production. Supply chains must remain open to meet the rapid and extensive development of clean energy infrastructure.
The report stresses the imperative of stronger international cooperation to limit global warming to 1.5°C. It warns that failure to increase ambition and implementation between now and 2030 would introduce additional climate risks and make achieving the 1.5°C goal reliant on the massive deployment of carbon removal technologies, which are both costly and unproven at scale. In a Delayed Action Case examined in the IEA report, insufficient progress in expanding clean energy by 2030 would necessitate the removal of nearly 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually during the second half of this century, a scenario with considerable uncertainty and challenges.
IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol commented, “Removing carbon from the atmosphere is very costly. We must do everything possible to stop putting it there in the first place. The pathway to 1.5°C has narrowed in the past two years, but clean energy technologies are keeping it open. With international momentum building behind key global targets such as tripling renewable capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, which would together lead to a stronger decline in fossil fuel demand this decade, the COP28 climate summit in Dubai is a vital opportunity to commit to stronger ambition and implementation in the remaining years of this critical decade.”