This week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its flagship World Energy Outlook publication. This year’s report focussed on the impact of COVID-19 on the energy sector and the prospects for accelerated energy transitions. Notably, the IEA pays considerable attention to what it would mean for the global energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
The report explores a scenario called Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE2050) and focusses on the key requirements for the next decade. The scale of emission reduction required over the next decade for NZE2050 is significant. Total CO2 emissions would need to fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, with CO2 emissions from the power sector required to decline by around 60%.
The IEA argues that in addition to investment in technologies, behavioural changes must form an integral part of an emissions reduction strategy. Its report outlines 11 individual measures related to behaviour which in total would reduce CO2 emissions by 2Gt in 2030, the majority of which are in the transport sector.
With regard to electric vehicles, in the NZE2050 scenario over 50% of passenger cars sold in 2030 are electric, up from 2.5% in 2019. For context, Roskill’s base case outlook sees plug-in EVs accounting for ~25% of passenger car sales by 2030 and ~40% by 2040.
Keeping on track for NZE2050 by the end of this decade will be a monumental global challenge. As the IEA asserts, a “…large number of unparalleled changes across all parts of the energy sector would need to be realised simultaneously, at a time when the world is trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic”.