Renewable investment needs 30 per cent uptick to meet climate goals

Global investment in renewable energy technologies must increase by 30 per cent between now and 2050 in order to limit climate change to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels, a study has found.

In its annual flagship report, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates that around $131tr (£94tr) will be needed for renewables between now and 2050 - this comes to around $4.4tr annually - to meet the target.

Efforts to limit temperature rises in line with the Paris Agreement require most countries and bring their CO2 emissions close to net zero by mid-century

The report found that proven technologies for a net-zero energy system already largely exist today and it anticipates that renewable power, green hydrogen and modern bioenergy will dominate the world of energy of the future. But as well as renewables, it called for increased use of electricity in buildings, industry and transport to support decarbonisation and a move away from fossil fuel usage. It also anticipates expanded production and use of green hydrogen, synthetic fuels and feedstocks.

The report gave some hope that these objectives may be achieved, with financial markets and investors already directing capital away from fossil fuels and towards other energy technologies including renewables. However, it also said that national social and economic policies will play fundamental roles in delivering the energy transition at the speed required.

“The gap between where we are and where we should be is not decreasing but widening,” said Francesco La Camera, IRENA’s director-general. “We need a drastic acceleration of energy transitions to make a meaningful turnaround.”

In order to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C, fossil fuel consumption would have to fall by more than 75 per cent by 2050, the report said, with oil and coal shrinking more quickly. Use of natural gas would have to peak in 2025, although it would be the dominant fossil fuel by mid-century.

A study in January also suggested that governments fund fleets of direct air capture systems to remove CO2 directly from the ambient air and sequester it safely underground in order to account for excess historic emissions.

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