The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has published a report that presents a pathway for the world to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by transforming the global energy landscape to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels and bring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050. The report explores technology, investment, and policy choices required to achieve a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive energy future.
The report titled, ‘World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway,’ points to a consensus that “an energy transition grounded in renewable sources and technologies that increases efficiency and conservation is the only way to give us a fighting chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2050.” It emphasizes that international cooperation is “an essential piece of the global energy transition.” The Outlook argues for a “holistic global policy framework” that will unite countries in a commitment to “a just transition that leaves no one behind and strengthens the international flow of finance, capacity and technologies.”
Over 90% of the solutions for a successful outcome in 2050, the report finds, involve renewable energy through direct supply, electrification, energy efficiency, green hydrogen, and bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). It flags that innovative solutions to reshape the energy system are opening up new possibilities for decarbonization “much faster than expected,” but “time is of the essence, and a rapid decline in emissions must begin now.”
According to the Outlook, while a growing number of countries are committing to net-zero strategies, which indicates a “major shift in the global climate discourse,” current plans “fall woefully short of a 1.5°C goal.” IRENA’s analysis shows that energy transition investment will need to increase by 30% over planned investment to a total of USD 131 trillion between now and 2050, which will also result in a cumulative payback of at least USD 61 trillion by 2050. The report calls for measures to eliminate market distortions that favor fossil fuels, alongside incentives for energy transition solutions.
The report finds that the energy transition will result in “deep structural changes that will greatly affect economies and societies.” According to IRENA, socioeconomic impacts of pursuing the pathway towards 1.5°C will include:
- 122 million jobs in a transformed energy sector in 2050, with renewable energy jobs alone accounting for more than a third;
- an increase in gross domestic product (GDP) that is 2.4% greater (on average) than that of the Planned Energy Scenario (PES) over the next decade, aligned with the needs of a post-COVID recovery; and
- an 11% improvement over the PES by 2050 along all welfare dimensions.
IRENA launched the Outlook during the first meeting of the Global High-Level Forum on Energy Transition on 30 June 2021. [Publication: World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway] [Executive Summary] [Publication Landing Page]