Net Zero by 2050 possible, but clean energy investments need to outweigh fossils fast: Report

Heavy investment, hydrogen and carbon capture & storage can help keep the temperature increase to 1.7 degrees Celsius

By Seema Prasad
Published: Friday 02 December 2022

It is still possible to keep the temperature increase to 1.77 degrees Celsius with determined action, according to a new energy economy analysis. But investments in the clean energy sector must triple that of fossil fuel to reach Net Zero by 2050. 

Greenhouse gas emissions from developing economies, particularly India, will continue to rise until the end of the present decade and will only begin to decline by the early 2030s, according to the 2022 New Energy Outlook report.

Read more: Electric cars could one day power your house – here’s how to make it happen

The report by global, clean energy research provider BloombergNEF analysed Net Zero scenarios or pathways that limit global warming to 1.77 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050, with a 67 per cent assurance. 

Emissions in Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan have already peaked this year and will decline rapidly after that, according to their projections. However, China’s drop takes a blended approach; emissions peak this year and stabilise for a while before they realign with developed countries’ trajectories.

Limiting global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius will not be easily achieved, found the researchers’ modelling. Nevertheless, “there are still plausible pathways to stay within 1.77 degrees Celsius of warming in our Net Zero scenario,” the report said.

“Our modelling suggests emissions need to fall by 30 per cent by 2030 and overall by 6 per cent a year to 2040,” the study added. “Even then, a revolution will be needed in the energy sector to increase momentum and accelerate emissions reductions.” 

Source: BloombergNEF

On the contrary, if no new policies were carried out to transition to a low-carbon economy, the emissions would fall on average at a rate of 0.9 per cent every year, as per the economic transition scenario. This aligned with 2.6 degrees Celsius temperature warming by 2100. 

Switching the sources of power generation from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the need of the hour, the report highlighted. This would account for nearly half of the reductions in carbon emissions, according to the author’s net zero calculations.

About 25 per cent of total emissions can be reduced using low-carbon electricity in the transport sector and industrial processes. The rest of the emissions can be abated by hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) by 6 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

Read more: Why green hydrogen may be the clean fuel for future

Hydrogen and carture capture needs push

CCS is the process of using technology to capture carbon emissions from industrial processes or power generation, from where it is transported and stored underground for posterity.

Using CCS results in 11 per cent of all emissions being reduced from 2022-50. “The annual rate of emissions captured by CCS grows from very low levels today to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2030, 4.9 gigatons in 2040 and 7.3 gigatons by 2050 — a volume comparable to the combined power sector emissions of China, the US, and Europe in 2021,” the report read.

The usage of hydrogen grows five-fold in the Net Zero projection for 2050 from 90 million tonnes now to 501 million tonnes in 2050. It is driven by the energy industry (163 million tonnes), steel making (144 million tonnes) and transport (88 million tonnes) sectors for either aviation or shipping.

Net Zero scenario requires a global investment of $194 trillion by 2050 to make this large-scale clean energy transition. “The ratio of investment in clean-energy supply to fossil sources (excluding demand areas) must average 2.9 in this decade, and then rise to 4.9 in the 2030s and 9.7 in the 2040s,” the report said. 

Read more: Sulphuric acid: The next resource crisis that could stifle green tech and threaten food security

“This means that, for every dollar invested in fossil-energy supplies between now and 2030, $2.9 should be invested in clean energy supplies such as renewable energy, clean hydrogen and carbon capture, rising to nearly $10 after 2040,” it added. 

Net Zero projections are not reflective of their assessment of countries’ internal measures and responsibilities, the authors clarified. They mention that the findings are only an analysis of the carbon budget of various sectors, including aviation, petrochemicals, power, rail and road. It also takes into account economic growth and demand factors.

While the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) did not result in decisive actions toward phasing out fossil fuels, governments and the public sector could still work closely together to transition to low-carbon energy technologies, the authors said.

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