The IEA’s Seven Key Pillars Of Decarbonization

Last week the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a new report detailing the steps that would be required to get the world to net‐zero carbon emissions (NZE) by 2050. The report is Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, and it can be downloaded here.

The part of the report that has gotten the most attention so far is the idea that development of new oil and gas fields must stop, and that no more coal plants can be built if NZE is to be achieved. IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said: “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year.”

I may dissect this challenge in a future article, but today I want to just highlight the seven pillars that the IEA identified for achieving the goal. These pillar are:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Behavioral changes
  3. Electrification
  4. Renewables
  5. Hydrogen and hydrogen‐based fuels
  6. Bioenergy
  7. Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

Here’s a high-level summary of what the IEA says about each pillar.

Energy efficiency

“Minimizing energy demand growth through improvements in energy efficiency makes a critical contribution in the NZE. Many efficiency measures in industry, buildings, appliances and transport can be put into effect and scaled up very quickly. As a result, energy efficiency measures are front‐loaded in the NZE, and they play their largest role in curbing energy demand and emissions in the period to 2030.”

Huge changes are needed in the transportation sector. Those can be accomplished by strict fuel-economy standards and global bans on internal combustion engines (ICEs) after 2035. This should increase the number of electric vehicles on the road from 1% today to 20% in 2030 and 60% in 2040, and it makes a major dent in the carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

Behavioral changes

“In the NZE, behavioral change refers to changes in ongoing or repeated behavior on the part of consumers which impact energy service demand or the energy intensity of an energy‐ related activity.”

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