The International Energy Agency’s annual report, published Tuesday, included for the first time a model for how the world can achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution by 2050.
The IEA also predicted global peak oil demand will come within the next decade and crowned solar energy “the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” according to IEA head Fatih Birol. Solar-generated electricity has already become cheaper than electricity from coal- and gas-fired power plants in most countries, the IEA finds, according to Bloomberg Green. Renewables displace coal in the electrical grid, accounting for 80% of demand growth to 2030.
Even if renewables accounted for 100% of new energy demand, however, current and planned fossil fuel infrastructure must be taken offline before the end of its business-as-usual lifespan in order to limit global warming to 1.5° C, in line with the Paris agreement. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the global energy landscape, with a projected 18% drop in capital spending and a 5% drop in global energy demand this year — contractions not seen since World War II — with oil and gas spending seeing the biggest reductions.
But that doesn’t mean we can relax, as Birol said “large shifts in government policies” were needed to avoid greenhouse gas pollution returning to pre-pandemic levels. The IEA also called for cutting steel industry carbon pollution by 54% by 2050, a plan some critics dismissed as “unambitious.”