The International Energy Agency has released a new edition of its Net Zero Roadmap, which shows that the road to driving down greenhouse gas emissions from the world’s energy sector to net zero and limiting global warming to 1.5  ̊C remains possible, just, owing to the record growth of key clean energy technologies, but momentum still needs to increase rapidly in many areas.

The 2023 edition of the Roadmap sets out a global pathway to keep the 1.5  ̊C goal in reach, providing a comprehensive update to the original report, which was published in 2021, and in the IEA’s view has served as an essential benchmark for policy makers, industry, the financial sector and civil society. The update describes the significant changes to the energy landscape in the past two years, including the post-pandemic economic rebound and the extraordinary growth in some clean energy technologies – but also increased investment in fossil fuels and stubbornly high emissions.

Key points:

  • Record growth in solar power capacity and electric car sales are in line with a pathway towards net zero emissions globally by mid-century, as are industry plans for the roll-out of new manufacturing capacity.
  • Clean energy innovation has also been delivering more options and lowering technology costs. In the IEA’s original Roadmap in 2021, technologies not yet available on the market delivered nearly half of the emissions reductions needed for net zero in 2050. That number has now fallen to around 35%.
  • But bolder action still is necessary this decade. In this year’s ‘net zero’ pathway, global renewable power capacity triples by 2030. Meanwhile, the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements doubles, sales of electric vehicles and heat pumps rise sharply, and energy sector methane emissions fall by 75%.

This huge policy-driven ramping up of clean energy capacity will drive fossil fuel demand 25% lower by 2030, and by 2050, it will fall by 80%. As a result, no new unabated coal plants are needed. Neither are new long-lead-time upstream oil and gas projects, new coal mines, or mine extensions.

  • Stronger international co-operation is needed. The report warns that a failure to sufficiently step up ambition and implementation between now and 2030 would create additional climate risks.
  • In a ‘Delayed Action’ case that the report examines, a failure to expand clean energy quickly enough by 2030 means nearly 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide would have to be removed from the atmosphere every year during the second half of this century. If carbon removal technologies fail to reach this target, returning the temperature to 1.5  ̊C would not be possible.
  • Staying on track means almost all countries must move forward their targeted net zero dates. In the new zero pathway, global clean energy spending rises from USD 1.8 trillion in 2023 to USD 4.5 trillion annually by the early 2030s.