Pathway to Net Zero

1. This Pathway to Net Zero is possible only with strong policy implementation, and contrasts with our ‘most likely’ forecast set out in our Energy Transition Outlook

  • Technically and politically feasible, but very challenging 
  • Halving global CO2 emissions by 2030 relative to 2017 is almost unattainable, and our net zero report finds emission reduction by 2030 to be 30% 
  • Net zero can be achieved with scale up of today’s technologies, but requires tough governmental interventions across all sectors and regions (bans, mandates, and effective implementation, communication, and monitoring), and also certain behavioural shifts 
  • Net zero 2050 is not an end state. In 2050, the global energy system will still be changing rapidly, delivering net negative emissions beyond 2050 

2. For the world to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and hence secure a 1.5°C future, leading regions and sectors have to go much further, faster

  • The starting points of the world’s regions are very different, with varying emission intensities and technology and capabilities to decarbonize 
  • OECD regions need to move faster and have earlier net zero dates — in the process maturing key decarbonization technologies to spur decarbonization of less developed regions 
  • North America and Europe need to reach zero emissions in 2042, while Greater China should reduce emissions by 98% by 2050 
  • Some developing regions will have energy systems that are far from decarbonized by mid-century, e.g. Sub Saharan Africa will reduce emissions by just 23% and the Indian Subcontinent with 64% 
  • With hard-to-abate sectors only able to cut emissions by 80-95% at best, easy-to-electrify demand subsectors need to go below zero. Transport is the biggest emitting sector in 2050

3. Renewable electricity, hydrogen, and bioenergy are essential, but insufficient

  • Maximizing non-fossil sources in the energy mix, as far as is feasible in 2050, delivers just 80% of the emissions reduction required for the net zero target. 
  • Electricity will account for 51% of energy demand, with 86% of that electricity supplied by solar PV and wind. Nuclear does not feature prominently because it is too costly compared with variable renewable energy. 
  • Hydrogen, predominantly green, will account for 13% of the energy demand, and dedicated renewable energy production from wind and solar plants will provide more than half of the supply 
  • Fossil fuel use reduces by 80% but will still account for 21% of the energy mix in 2050. No new oil and gas will be needed after 2024 in developed and 2028 in developing countries 
  • 20% of net zero decarbonization will rely on carbon capture applied to fossil CO2 and carbon removal, delivered through bioenergy with CCS (BECCS), direct air capture (DAC) and nature-based solutions

4. Massive, early action is needed if we are to have any chance of reaching a 1.5 °C future

  • Short-term action/sprints and long-term planning have to take place at the same time, starting now 
  • All regions and sectors have to step up now, but the least-developed countries need dedicated technology and financial assitance to enable a fast transition 
  • Technology, policies and investments need to work together — and COP26 needs to deliver a bolder, more coordinated framework for action 
  • Time is the key constraint, not capital. Even with very large investments required (cumulatively USD 55trn in renewables and USD 35trn in grids over 30 years) the additional costs of reaching 1.5°C are less than 1% of global GDP