Eliminating energy-related carbon emissions is possible


Global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions can be reduced by 70% by 2050 and completely phased-out by 2060 with a net positive economic outlook, according to new findings released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Perspectives for the Energy Transition: Investment Needs for a Low-Carbon Energy Transition, launched on the occasion of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, presents the case that increased deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency in G20 countries and globally can achieve the emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature rise to no more than 2°C, avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change.

The Paris Agreement reflected an unprecedented international determination to act on climate. The focus must be on the decarbonision of the global energy system as it accounts for almost two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions, said IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin, adding that the world is in a good position to transform the global energy system but success will depend on urgent action, as delays will raise the costs of decarbonisation.

The energy investment needed for decarbonising the energy sector amounts to US$29-trillion until 2050, which is only 0,4% of global GDP. Furthermore, IRENA’s macroeconomic analysis suggests that such investment creates a stimulus that, together with other pro-growth policies, will boost global GDP by 0,8% in 2050, generate new jobs in the renewable energy sector that would more than offset job losses in the fossil fuel industry, with further jobs being created by energy efficiency activities, and improve human welfare through important additional environmental and health benefits thanks to reduced air pollution.

The report states that emissions will need to fall continuously to 9,5 Gt by 2050 to limit warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. 90% of this energy CO2 emission reduction can be achieved through expanding renewable energy deployment and improving energy efficiency. Renewable energy now accounts for 24% of global power generation and 16% of primary energy supply. To achieve decarbonisation, the report states that, by 2050, renewables should be 80% of power generation and 65% of total primary energy supply.

The report also describes how the energy sector transition needs to go beyond the power sector into all end-use sectors. Renewables need to account for the majority of power generation, based on continued rapid growth especially for solar and wind power in combination with enabling grids and new operating practices. But also, the buildings, industry and transport sectors need more bioenergy, solar heating and electricity from renewable sources that substitute conventional energy. Electric vehicles need to become the predominant car type in 2050. Liquid biofuel production must grow ten-fold. High-efficiency all-electric buildings should become the norm. Deployment of heat pumps must accelerate and a combined total of two billion buildings will need to be newly built or renovated.

Contact Timothy Hurst, Irena, thurst@irena.org


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