The 2023 edition of the Roadmap sets out a global pathway to keep the 1.5 ̊C goal in reach, providing a comprehensive update to the groundbreaking original report, which was published in 2021 and has served as an essential benchmark for policy makers, industry, the financial sector and civil society. The 2023 update incorporates the significant changes to the energy landscape in the past two years, including the post-pandemic economic rebound and the extraordinary growth in some clean energy technologies – but also increased investment in fossil fuels and stubbornly high emissions.
Record growth in solar power capacity and electric car sales are in line with a pathway towards net zero emissions globally by mid-century, as are industry plans for the roll-out of new manufacturing capacity for them. This is significant, since those two technologies alone deliver one-third of the emissions reductions between today and 2030 in the pathway.
Clean energy innovation has also been delivering more options and lowering technology costs. In the IEA’s original Roadmap in 2021, technologies not yet available on the market delivered nearly half of the emissions reductions needed for net zero in 2050. That number has now fallen to around 35% in this year’s update.
Yet bolder action is necessary this decade. In this year’s updated net zero pathway, global renewable power capacity triples by 2030. Meanwhile, the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements doubles, sales of electric vehicles and heat pumps rise sharply, and energy sector methane emissions fall by 75%.
This huge policy-driven ramping up of clean energy capacity drives fossil fuel demand 25% lower by 2030. By 2050, fossil fuel demand falls by 80%. As a result, no new unabated coal plants are needed. Neither are new long-lead-time upstream oil and gas projects, new coal mines or mine extensions. Nonetheless, continued investment is required in some existing oil and gas assets and already approved projects to avoid damaging price spikes.
Stronger international cooperation is needed. The report warns that a failure to sufficiently step up ambition and implementation between now and 2030 would create additional climate risks and make achieving the 1.5 ̊C goal dependant on the massive deployment of carbon removal technologies, which are expensive and unproven at scale.
In a Delayed Action Case the report examines, a failure to expand clean energy quickly enough by 2030 means nearly 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide would have to be removed from the atmosphere every year during the second half of this century. If carbon removal technologies fail to reach this target, returning the temperature to 1.5 ̊C would not be possible.
It is also essential to foster an equitable global transition that takes different national circumstances into account, the report finds. For example, advanced economies reach net zero sooner to allow emerging and developing economies more time.
Nonetheless, staying on track means almost all countries must move forward their targeted net zero dates. It also hinges on mobilising a significant increase in investment, especially in emerging and developing economies. In the new zero pathway, global clean energy spending rises from USD 1.8 trillion in 2023 to USD 4.5 trillion annually by the early 2030s.