renewable energy wind turbine

Renewables investment needs to triple to meet net-zero goals

The world’s progress on adopting low-carbon energy technologies is too slow to put global emissions into sustained decline towards net-zero, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

It found that while adoption of solar, wind and electric vehicles has been booming in recent years, the amount of investment needs to triple for a realistic chance of meeting net-zero by 2050.

The report also showed that even as deployments of solar and wind rise, the world’s consumption of coal also grew strongly this year, pushing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions towards their second largest annual increase in history.

“The world’s hugely encouraging clean energy momentum is running up against the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“Governments need to resolve this at COP26 by giving a clear and unmistakeable signal that they are committed to rapidly scaling up the clean and resilient technologies of the future. The social and economic benefits of accelerating clean energy transitions are huge, and the costs of inaction are immense.”

The report found that even if almost all of the net growth in energy demand up to 2050 is met by low emissions sources, annual emissions would still hover around today’s levels, which are far too high to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change.

As a result, global average temperatures are still rising when they hit 2.6°C above pre-industrial levels in 2100.

Furthermore, even if all currently announced climate pledges are met, the world would still be consuming 75 million oil barrels per day by 2050 – down from around 100 million today.

The report comes just two weeks before the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow which will host world leaders in their assessment of the first five-year review of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Countries are expected to announce updates to their plans for reducing emissions, but many commentators are frustrated that new targets simply point to ambitions for, and not action on, climate change.

“Today’s climate pledges would result in only 20 per cent of the emissions reductions by 2030 that are necessary to put the world on a path towards net-zero by 2050,” Dr Birol said.

“Reaching that path requires investment in clean energy projects and infrastructure to more than triple over the next decade. Some 70 per cent of that additional spending needs to happen in emerging and developing economies, where financing is scarce and capital remains up to seven times more expensive than in advanced economies.”

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