In the ongoing quest to address the pressing issue of climate change, a significant milestone is on the horizon: the first-ever global stocktake of the Paris Agreement. This stocktake serves as a comprehensive evaluation of the world’s collective progress toward meeting its climate targets. In a concerted effort to contribute to this crucial endeavor, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is consolidating its most recent data and analyses pertaining to clean energy transitions into a single accessible platform. This initiative is aimed at benefiting a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including citizens, governments, and industries.
The fundamental goal of achieving net zero emissions necessitates a profound overhaul of our prevailing energy systems that underpin both our daily lives and the global economy. The IEA’s ambitious Net Zero by 2050 Scenario charts a focused yet attainable course towards achieving net zero emissions within the energy sector by the middle of the century. This trajectory aligns with the imperative of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5oC. Embracing this course of action emerges as our best shot at mitigating the dire consequences of climate change. To embark on this trajectory entails hastening the transition towards non-emitting energy sources like wind and solar power, intensifying energy efficiency efforts, electrifying transportation, industry, and buildings, expanding the adoption of clean hydrogen and other low-emission fuels, and actively investing in technologies that curb emissions, including those capable of negative emissions.
The strides taken in the deployment of clean energy technologies like solar PV and electric vehicles stand as a testament to the transformative potential achievable through ambitious policies and action. However, urgent and accelerated change is imperative across diverse components of the energy landscape to realize the target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The latest assessment from the IEA unveiled in its annual update of the “Tracking Clean Energy Progress” online resource, reveals remarkable progress in the past year. The unprecedented growth in electric car sales, the surge in renewable electricity capacity additions, and the record-breaking investment in clean energy collectively exemplify a steadfast global commitment to transitioning towards sustainable energy.
The transition to clean energy is not uniform across regions and sectors, and this dichotomy is evident in the report. While electric car sales in 2022 soared to new heights, with over 10 million units sold, nearly 95% of these sales were concentrated in China, the United States, and Europe. The lack of uniformity underscores the need for international collaboration to disseminate advancements in vital technologies across all regions, particularly in emerging and developing economies.
The transition is progressing at varying speeds in different parts of the energy system. Sectors such as electricity generation and passenger cars have witnessed swift advancements due to mature technologies and declining costs. However, the need for rapid innovation remains crucial to address sectors like heavy industry and long-distance transport, where emissions reduction is more challenging. While noteworthy progress has been made in terms of innovation, there is a compelling need for a more accelerated pace to usher in low-emission technologies for these challenging domains.
The 2023 update of the Tracking Clean Energy Progress offers an extensive evaluation of over 50 components that influence the alignment of the global energy system with the net zero emissions trajectory. By analyzing sectors, technologies, and infrastructure, this assessment provides an informed understanding of the current state of the clean energy transition. The IEA also introduces the redesigned Clean Energy Technology Guide, an interactive digital repository that provides insights into the readiness and geographical distribution of more than 500 innovative technologies across the global energy landscape, complemented by the Clean Energy Demonstration Projects Database.
The report identifies significant progress over the past year, with manufacturing capacity for electric vehicle batteries reaching levels that can meet the projected demand in the IEA’s net zero scenario for 2050. Solar PV, with its impressive generation of nearly 1,300 terawatt-hours in 2022, has been upgraded to “on track” in terms of aligning with net zero ambitions. Government support, especially in countries like China, the United States, and India, has catalyzed this progress.
Progress in the buildings sector is also noteworthy, with governments increasingly enforcing stringent energy codes and standards. The transition from “not on track” to “more efforts needed” for this sector in the tracking system signifies the growing momentum toward energy-efficient and sustainable building practices. Global energy efficiency policies have been bolstered, as exemplified by India’s introduction of new policies for appliances, vehicles, industrial facilities, and commercial buildings.
While the progress across various energy components is commendable, most of these components are not yet fully aligned with net zero emissions by 2050. A comprehensive effort is required to strengthen policy support and boost investment across a wide spectrum of technologies in all global regions. This collective effort is pivotal in propelling the broader and faster transition towards clean energy and ensuring that the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 remains within reach.
Reporting by Emad Martin; Editing by Ehsan Hosseini