Getting to zero emissions will require new energy approaches

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For the world to reach net zero emissions by 2050 will require a never-before-seen transformation of the global energy sector, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Current promises by the world’s governments will not be sufficient if the world’s goal is to stop producing the greenhouse gases that threaten climate change, according to the report, which was released on Tuesday.

The report says it can see a path that would get the world to the goal of zero new emissions, but notes that the path is narrow and requires radical changes in the way energy is produced, transported and used.

For example, new investment in projects that use fossil fuels would have to stop immediately, which would put an end to any expansion in the coal industry. Further towards the goal, the least efficient coal plants would have to be shut down by 2030 and all others would have to be reoutfitted by 2040.

Additionally, policymakers must enforce rules that would phase out the sale of new cars with combustion engines by 2035, according to the report.

Meanwhile, public policy has to devote itself to finding ways to implement all available clean and efficient energy technologies, while also speeding up innovation.

This could be the biggest challenge ever faced by humanity, said IEA director Fatih Birol. Governments need to quickly boost their investment into research and the development of clean energy technology and make these the centrepiece of their energy and climate policies. At the same time, the transition must be managed fairly and inclusively.

Under the IEA plan, two-thirds of the world’s energy would be based on wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower by 2050, while cars would almost all be fuelled by electricity and air travel with biofuels and synthetic fuels.

The goal, according to the report, would be to have 90 per cent of power generation come from renewable sources, while the majority of the rest was created with nuclear power.

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