As you no doubt know, reaching net-zero carbon dioxide emissions is a facet of a larger goal to limit long-term climate change events, including global warming, increased floods and extreme weather events. Net-zero carbon emissions, or carbon neutrality, is the effort to reduce carbon dioxide output at least to the level estimated to be absorbed by Earth’s carbon sinks. Net-zero has, in recent years, gained political traction and has even been endorsed by the Biden administration as a serious goal.
How Can Net-Zero Be Achieved
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recently published a detailed report regarding energy development. This report is a detailed scenario for reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050. According to the IEA, the key to averting further consequences of climate change is in the hands of international governments and their respective energy sectors. Energy, being a primary source of fossil fuel use, is an essential factor in total carbon dioxide output. Without changes in energy sectors, net-zero by 2050 is an unrealistic objective.
The “Net‐Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE)” is one track among many possible pathways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The IEA posits that “the path to net‐zero emissions is narrow…”. In other words, the potential scenarios for reaching net-zero require specific actions at specific times. As early as 2030, the NZE calls for declines in total global energy consumption, declines in coal demand and improvements energy efficiency. The authors of the NZE go on to say that “staying on it [the path to zero-emissions by 2050] requires immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies.” The NZE emphasizes renewable energy, electricity and hydrogen based fuels, as they will replace fossil fuels as central energy sources.
In the past, IEA the has been criticized for understating the importance renewable energy and overstating the need for fossil fuels in the future- this makes their recent report all the more persuasive. The IEA has done something of a 180 in its recommendations for climate change solutions. That said, investments in new oil and gas fields must cease immediately. To avoid further global heating, and the worst effects of climate change, no new new coal-fired power stations can be built.