To reach global net zero emissions goals there needs to be increased investment in the area, but those investments create huge economic opportunities and many of the areas ripe for carbon reductions can pay for themselves, according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2021.
The report says that successfully achieving net zero emissions could create a market for wind turbines, solar panels, lithium batteries and fuel cells of more than $1 trillion comparable in size to the current oil and gas market. The IEA also says 40% of the required emissions reductions to meet net zero objectives can come from measures that will pay for themselves.
Those areas include improving efficiency or installing wind or solar power in areas where they are the most competitive in electricity generation.
Although the IEA says such investment is lagging and is far below what is needed to reach sustainability.
“There is a looming risk of more turbulence for global energy markets,” says IEA Executive Director Faith Birol said. “We are not investing enough to meet future energy needs, and the uncertainties are setting the stage for a volatile period ahead. The way to address this mismatch is clear – a major boost in clean energy investment, across all technologies and all markets. But this needs to happen quickly.”
Investment in sustainability outlooks continues to be both a problem and what could be an opportunity. The UN’s sustainable development goals face a funding gap of $100 trillion, according to a report by Force for Good, but the goals could bring in $12 trillion of business opportunities if tackled reasonably. Businesses globally continue to say they will invest more in sustainability, with one recent survey indicating double-digit growth in spending toward ESG objectives.
The IEA report says that fossil fuels still are too widely used for energy consumption and that the use of coal, aiding the second highest yearly increase in carbon emissions on record.
The report calls for two areas of action to help continue advancing toward net zero. One is the Stated Policies Scenario, which represents actions that governments have already put into place, and the other is an Announced Pledges Scenario, which are plans that have been stated but not necessarily carried out.
The World Energy Outlook says that the Stated Policies Scenario will result in almost all the net growth in energy demand through 2050 is met by low emissions sources, but still leaves annual emissions at today’s levels. For announced pledges, the IEA sees demand for fossil fuels peak by 2025 and carbon emissions drop by 40% worldwide by 2050. If that is fulfilled all industries see a decline, with electricity driving the biggest improvement.
Under both the scenarios oil demand goes into decline for the first time in a WEO report, although the IEA says timing varies widely. Coal could also drop in the advanced pledges scenario, especially with China saying it will halt production of coal plants. The IEA says that could save 20 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2050.
Similarly, the EU has pledged a rapid increase in renewable energy after recent power crunches. The IEA report says the EU will save a comparable amount of emissions as China if it reaches its 2050 net zero goals.
Still, the IEA says the differences in what have been done and what are pledged to be done is stark and what is currently in place only result in 20% of the necessary emissions reductions by 2030 that are necessary to reach net zero by 2050.
“In every scenario, this report forecasts that fossil fuel demand will soon peak and begin to decline, if it hasn’t already,” says Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres. “This makes it clearer than ever that each dollar invested in fossil fuel development today increases the risk of future stranded assets and represents a missed opportunity to invest in much-needed clean energy technologies and infrastructure. This new reality is why investors have increasingly called on companies to disclose and reduce emissions and set transition plans.”