IEA Net Zero Roadmap shows narrowing 1.5C path

An update to the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Roadmap shows that solar power and EVs are booming but that more action is needed to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

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The IEA’s original Roadmap was published in 2021, outlining a narrow path to reducing emissions in line with the 1.5°C warming limit set out in the Paris Agreement. While there has been significant growth in clean technologies in the intervening years, continued investment in fossil fuels has further narrowed the path to 1.5°C.  

The 2023 report shows that solar generation and EV sales are in line with a 2050 net zero pathway, as is the global manufacturing capacity to maintain their continued growth. Together, the two technologies deliver one-third of the emissions reductions required between today and 2030 in the IEA pathway.  

However, for the pathway to remain viable, total renewables capacity must triple by 2030, while the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements must double, and energy sector methane emissions need to fall by 75 per cent. According to the IEA, these measures are all within scientific and technical means, but global international cooperation is essential to deliver them.

“Keeping alive the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C requires the world to come together quickly,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“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.”

In the new net zero pathway, global clean energy spending rises from $1.8 trillion in 2023 to $4.5 trillion annually by the early 2030s. This will drive fossil fuel demand 25 per cent lower by 2030, reducing emissions by 35 per cent compared with the all-time high recorded in 2022. Fossil fuel demand needs to fall 80 per cent by 2050, with the IEA stating that ‘no new long-lead-time upstream oil and gas projects are needed’.

The report also outlines a ‘Delayed Action Case’ whereby the consequences of not acting soon enough are laid bare. If rapid emissions cuts are not made by 2030, five billion tonnes of CO2 would have to be removed annually from the atmosphere during the second half of this century. If CCS technologies cannot deliver that, returning global temperature to 1.5°C would not be possible.

“Removing carbon from the atmosphere is very costly. We must do everything possible to stop putting it there in the first place,” said Birol.

“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.”