Stop oil and gas exploration this year to reach net zero by 2050, says IEA report

May 18, 2021, 3:08 PM UTC

All new oil and gas exploration projects must end this year in order to control carbon dioxide emissions and reach net zero by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today. 

A new report published by the energy watchdog found that the net-zero target cannot be reached even if the current climate pledges set out by governments are successful.

In a radical road map, the IEA also urged global energy companies to stop new investments in coal plants. At the same time, it wants renewable energy growth to quadruple to keep global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Electrification is crucial to reducing emissions in the energy sector, which emits three-quarters of the world’s carbon dioxide, it said.

The IEA wants total energy investments to jump to $5 trillion each year until 2030—up from the current $2 trillion. Joint analysis by the IEA and the International Monetary Fund found that such a level of annual investment would increase global GDP growth by 0.4% a year.

Ramping up renewables

According to the IEA, massive investments should go toward renewable energy—adding 630 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 390GW of wind power to the grid each year until 2030, which is four times as great as the record 280GW added to the grid in 2020. The IEA hopes the global electricity sector would reach net-zero emissions by 2040.

Additionally, the IEA wants no new internal combustion engine cars sold by 2035, predicting that electric vehicle sales would go from 5% of total global car sales to more than 60% by 2030.

Since a big part of getting to net zero also involves investing in new technologies, the IEA wants governments to increase spending on R&D in technologies like advanced batteries, electrolyzers for hydrogen, and direct air capture so that these innovations can translate into mass production.

The report ends optimistically with idyllic images of a 2050 where 90% of the world’s electricity generation comes from renewable sources and coal demand has declined by 90% to just 1% of total energy use.

“Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

The report notes that the path to net-zero emissions will require a “singular, unwavering focus from all governments—working together with one another and with businesses, investors, and citizens.”

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