Release of IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap for the global energy sector

The special report released by IEA on May 18, 2021 shows that the pathway to the critical and formidable goal of net zero emissions is narrow, but it brings huge benefits. The report shows that heat pumps and efficient cooling technologies has an important role in reaching the goal.

The pathway requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally. Climate pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – would fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C, according to the new report, Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.

The 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. It 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. The report also examines key uncertainties, such as the roles of bioenergy, carbon capture and behavioural changes in reaching net zero.

Building on the IEA’s unrivalled energy modelling tools and expertise, the Roadmap sets out more than 400 milestones to guide the global journey to net zero by 2050. These include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.

In addition, other defined key milestones, are “no new sales of fossil fuel boilers by 2025” and that “50% of heating demand is met by heat pumps in 2045”, see Figure 4.1 below (page 152 in the report). The share of existing buildings retrofitted to the zero‐carbon‐ready level need to increase from <1% in 2020 to 20% in 2030 and >85% in 2050. The corresponding share for new buildings must be 100 % already in 2030. The stock of installed heat pumps needs to increase from 180 million units in 2020 to 600 million units in 2030 (almost quadruple) and thereafter a tenfold increase to 1800 million units in 2050, see the Figure 3.29 below (page 145 in the report).

Fig 3.29 Global building and heating equipment fr IEA report 2021


Fig 4.1 from IEA report NetZero by 2050

Most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 in the net zero pathway come from technologies readily available today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase. This demands that governments quickly increase and reprioritise their spending on research and development – as well as on demonstrating and deploying clean energy technologies – putting them at the core of energy and climate policy.

The special report is designed to inform the high-level negotiations that will take place at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention in Glasgow in November. It was requested as input to the negotiations by the UK government’s COP26 Presidency.

The full report is available for free on the IEA’s website along with an online interactive that highlights some of the key milestones in the pathway that must be achieved in the next three decades to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read the press release from IEA and the full report here >