Current Affairs

IEA Roadmap to Net-Zero by 2050

  • Posted By
  • Categories
  • Published
    26th May, 2021
  • Context

    The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a special report that charts a pathway to building a global energy sector with net-zero emissions in 2050. 

  • Background

    • The number of countries announcing pledges to achieve net-zero emissions over the coming decades continues to grow.
    • But the pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C.
    • This special report is the world’s first comprehensive study of how to transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth.

    International Energy Agency (IEA)

    • The International Energy Agency is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization.
    • It was established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.
    • In March 2017, after a series of intensive consultations with all the relevant ministries, India joined the IEA as an association country.
  • Analysis

    What is the net zero roadmap?

    • Title: Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector
    • The IEA report is a “how-to guide” for the world’s decision-makers, many of whomhave committed their countries, cities or businesses to net-zero emissions by midcentury.
    • IEA cautions that the road “is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally.”
    • The report offers the “world’s first comprehensive study of how to transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth.” 
    • The roadmap provided by the report includes over 400 milestones to guide the path toward net-zero global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050.
    • The special report was requested as input to the negotiations at the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC – the Glasgow Climate Change Conference – by the incoming COP presidency, the UK government. 

    COP 26

    • The COP26 event is a global United Nations summit about climate change and how countries are planning to tackle it.
    • COP stands for Conference of the Parties, and will be attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - a treaty agreed in 1994.
    • The 2021 meeting will be the 26th meeting, which is why it's called COP26.
  • What would it take to achieve the ‘net-zero’ target?

    • Solar PV: The report indicates that a net-zero pathway requires annual additions of solar PV to reach 630 gigawatts by 2030 and of wind power to reach 390 gigawatts. These levels would be four times the level in 2020.
    • Focus on energy efficiency: The report also underlines that a major push to increase energy efficiency is essential.
    • Environment-friendly technology: The report suggests most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 will come from currently-available technologies. In 2050, however, almost half the reductions will come from technologies that are at the demonstration or prototype phase now, and IEA’s report recommends that governments increase and reprioritize research and development spending and put them at the core of energy and climate policy.

    Net Zero

    • Net-zero or carbon-neutrality is a state in which a country’s emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
    • Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
    • This way, it is even possible for a country to have negative emissions, if the absorption and removal exceed the actual emissions.
      • A good example is Bhutan which is often described as carbon-negative because it absorbs more than it emits.

  • What are the major steps identified in the plan?

    Among the steps identified in the Roadmap are:

    • From today, halt all investment in new fossil fuel supply projects and make no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants;
    • By 2035, sell no new internal combustion engine passenger cars; and 
    • By 2040, achieve net-zero emissions in the global electricity sector.

    Important climate facts

    • The earth is now 1.1°C warmer than it was at the start of the industrial revolution.
    • The world is not on track to meet agreed targets in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which stipulated keeping global temperature increase well below 2 °C or at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
    • 2010-2019 is the warmest decade on record.
    • On the current path of carbon dioxide emissions, the global temperature is expected to increase by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of century.
    • To avoid the worst of warming (maximum 1.5°C rise), the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6 per cent per year between 2020 and 2030.
  • What are the key pillars of decarbonization?

    The report identifies seven “key pillars of decarbonisation” with milestones that span different sectors. These pillars are:

    • energy efficiency
    • behavioural changes
    • electrification
    • renewable
    • hydrogen and hydrogen?based fuels
    • bioenergy
    • carbon capture and storage (CCS)
  • How the roadmap received mixed responses?

    • Japan: Asia's third-largest carbon emitter in 2019, after China and India, Japan said the report did not align with its policy.
    • OPEC: Oil producer club OPEC said the IEA's recommendations on curbing fossil fuel emissions could lead to oil-price volatility if it is acted on.
    • Australia: For a resource-rich country like Australia – which has made billions from the export of coal and gas, which have also been the backbone of its energy grid and economy – it didn’t really provide realistic answers to how the country can move to a low-emissions economy by the middle of the century.
  • Which countries have pledged carbon neutrality?

    • The European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea, together with more than 110 other countries, have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050.
    • China has also pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Is India in a position to achieve net zero?

    India has not opted for carbon neutrality yet, for a number of reasons-

    • India has to stay focused on development — both as its immediate need as well as its aspirational goal. India’s current low carbon footprint is a consequence of the utter poverty and deprivation of a majority of its population, and not by virtue of sustainability.
    • India does not owe a carbon debt to the world. India’s emissions (non-LULUCF) are no more than 3.5% of global cumulative emissions prior to 1990 and about 5% since till 2018.
    • Any self-sacrificial declaration of carbon neutrality today in the current international scenario would be a wasted gesture reducing the burden of the developed world and transferring it to the backs of the Indian people.
  • Assessing the progress made by India

    • India has made considerable progress in its efforts towards decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. 
    • According to the third Biennial Report submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in February 2021, India’s emission intensity of gross domestic product (GDP) has reduced by 24 per cent between 2005 and 2016, thereby achieving its voluntary goal to reduce the emission intensity of GDP by 20-25 per cent from 2005 levels, earlier than the target year of 2020.
    • In 2015, India further raised ambition in its nationally determined contributions (NDC) to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
    • India’s share of non-fossil fuel-based energy resources in installed capacity of electricity generation has already reached 38 per cent against an NDC target of 40 per cent by 2030.
    • It also announced a target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which was subsequently enhanced to 450 GW by 2030.

    CO2 emitting sector

    The largest share of CO2 emissions is accounted for by-

    • electricity production (54%)
    • manufacturing industries and construction (25%)
    • transport (12%)
  • Conclusion

    The roadmap sets out a cost-effective and economically productive pathway, resulting in a clean, dynamic and resilient energy economy dominated by renewables like solar and wind instead of fossil fuels.