International Energy Agency to focus on net zero by 2050

Ketan Joshi
13 January 2021

(Renew Economy)


The International Energy Agency has announced a new report to be launched in May that outlines a detailed roadmap for a net zero by 2050 target for the world’s energy sector, which comprises roughly three-quarters of the world’s total emissions.

The “World’s Roadmap to Net Zero by 2050” will detail requirements for a range of groups such as companies, citizens, investors and governments to bring emissions down to a pathway aligned with a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is being launched to support the COP26 event to be held in November, in Glasgow.

“The energy that powers our daily lives and our economies also produces three-quarters of global emissions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “This means our climate challenge is essentially an energy challenge. The IEA is determined to tackle that challenge and lead global clean energy transitions”.

The IEA also announced a range of other work programs for 2021, most of which are targeted at COP26. These include an event to be held in March named the ‘clean transitions summit’ along with the UK’s COP26 President Alok Sharma. A new high-level global commission headed by Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will target the empowerment of citizens and the flow of benefits from clean energy transitions.

The “Our inclusive energy future” commission will focus on social and economic issues, along with affordability and fairness. The IEA will also publish a new report in April, focusing on the role of critical minerals in clean energy transitions, along with another report focusing on finance.

The renewed focus on climate action comes after the IEA published their flagship ‘World Energy Outlook’ in 2020, including a new scenario that modelled a ‘net zero’ option, but only up to 2030, and only with limited outputs.

The organisation has previously faced criticism for focusing attention on higher-emissions scenarios, particularly from the organisation ‘Oil Change International’, who applauded the IEA for including this scenario but tempered that with criticism for making its inclusion so limited. Oil Change International responded to yesterday’s news about a dedicated net zero by 2050 report by welcoming the new report but highlighting that the pathways modelled will be crucial to the impact of the modelling.

Kelly Trout, interim director of the Energy Transitions and Futures Program at Oil Change International, said “We’ll be looking for a robust 1.5°C scenario that prioritises a rapid and just phase-out out of fossil fuels, rather than gambling our future on risky negative emissions technologies”.

Romain Ioualalen, senior campaigner at Oil Change International, added that “We know how important the IEA’s scenarios are in energy planning; just last week, ExxonMobil used low-ambition IEA scenarios to justify continued oil and gas production for decades to come”.

Last December, the IEA was also criticised for publishing a ‘Coal report’ that presented an uncritical view of the stagnation of coal production across the world, driven by Australia’s rapidly expanding coal mining industries.

That report conflicts with the changes required highlighted in the World Energy Outlook report, and suggests there is still some way to go before a focus on emissions reductions and alignment with climate targets becomes more widespread in the organisation.



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