Renewable energy, combined with deeper electrification, can make up 75% of the carbon dioxide reductions needed from energy-related emissions, to meet the Paris Agreement by 2050.
Based on a carbon budget from the latest IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C, IRENA’s new Global Energy Transformation report shows that the global energy-related CO2 budget will run out at the latest by 2030. To set the world on a pathway towards meeting the aims of the Paris Agreement, annual energy-related CO2 emissions would need to be reduced by around 3.5% per year from now until 2050 and continue afterwards. Energy-related emissions would need to peak in 2020 and decline thereafter. By 2050 energy-related emissions would need to decline by 70% compared to today’s levels. Additional efforts are needed to reduce emissions in non-energy use (such as using bioenergy and hydrogen feedstocks); industrial process emissions; and efforts outside of the energy sector to reduce CO2 emissions in agriculture and forestry.
The REmap Case presented in Global Energy Transformation report outlines an aggressive, yet technically and economically feasible, route for accelerated action. It shows that the accelerated deployment of renewables, combined with deep electrification and increased energy efficiency, can achieve over 90% of the energy-related CO2 emissions reductions needed by 2050 to reach the well-below 2 °C aim of the Paris agreement. Electrification with renewable power is key, together making up 60% of the mitigation potential; if the additional reductions from direct use of renewables are considered, the share increases to 75%. When adding energy efficiency, that share increases to over 90%.
Not acting to mitigate the effects of climate change will be much costlier. Existing plans and policies will result in additional costs of USD 96 trillion related to air pollution and negative climate impacts by 2050 compared to the accelerated scale-up of renewables, energy efficiency and other technologies identified in the Report. Avoiding these costs under the REmap transition pathway would require additional expenditures. Nevertheless, the cumulative benefit of the Remap Case by 2050 would be in the range of USD 65 trillion to USD 160 trillion.
There are other risks of not taking action now. Infrastructure investment decisions today lock in energy use and emissions for decades. Investment in long-term assets, such as in fossil fuel infrastructure and inefficient building stock, continue unabated. This not only risks locking in emissions, but will add significant liability to the balance sheets of energy companies, utilities, investors and property owners. The energy transition will result in some asset stranding, totaling USD 11.8 trillion overall by 2050 in the
REmap Case, of which the highest share occurs in buildings (63%) and upstream investments in fossil fuels (28%). However, delaying action will almost double the amount of stranded assets, adding an additional USD 7.7 trillion and increasing the total value of stranded assets to USD 19.5 trillion by 2050 (equivalent to total US GDP in 2018). Delaying action therefore risks missing climate targets and may require relying on costly and unproven negative emission technologies.