Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Axios on your phone

Get breaking news and scoops on the go with the Axios app.

Download for free.

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.

Threat level: The IEA offers frank assessments of the closing window to keep 1.5°C in sight, but also data-backed arguments for why this immensely heavy lift is cost-effectively achievable.

  • Current national targets — even leaving aside the absence of policies to meet them — would still leave 22 billion tons of CO2 emissions in 2050, the IEA projects.
  • Global greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption are nowhere near on pace for meeting a net-zero mid-century goal.
  • Emissions are rebounding strongly from the pandemic-fueled drop and "further delay in acting to reverse that trend will put net zero by 2050 out of reach."

The big picture: The first-time report uses a "hybrid modeling approach" to explore needed uptake of renewables, hydrogen and other tech.

  • It fuses methods from the IEA's annual long-term projections called the World Energy Outlook, and its Energy Technology Perspectives series that analyzes hundreds of technologies.

Key findings: "Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway," the report notes.

  • New coal mines or extensions are also inconsistent with the IEA's net-zero pathway.
  • Sales of new internal combustion engine cars would need to end by 2035.
Expand chart
Data: IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

What's next: A lot of changes have to happen really fast to keep the narrow net-zero pathway open.

  • Energy efficiency would have to increase a lot. The net-zero pathway envisions 4% average annual improvements in energy intensity — that is, energy per unit of economic output — through 2030.
  • The report envisions annual additions of 630 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic generating capacity and 390 GW by 2030 — four times the record levels installed last year.

While the report is pretty clear-eyed about the difficulty of a net-zero pathway, one bright spot is the IEA's take on how much is possible with existing technology — at least in the medium term.

  • "Most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions through 2030 in our pathway come from technologies readily available today," the IEA states.
  • However, "in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase."

The bottom line: "The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal — our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5°C — make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
May 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

John Kerry irks some activists, experts with climate tech claims

U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry waded into treacherous waters with comments about how much new tech is needed to fight global warming.

Driving the news: In part of a BBC interview that aired Sunday, Kerry said, "I am told by scientists ... that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net-zero, by 2050, or 2045, as soon as we can, 50% of those [emissions] reductions are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have."

The window to limit global warming to 1.5°C is closing

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Just 20 out of 400 of the climate scenarios examined in a landmark 2018 United Nations climate report would have a realistic chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above preindustrial levels by 2100, a new study finds.

Why it matters: The study, by more than a dozen researchers from around the world, shows that even the scenarios they identified would still need to employ at least one carbon emissions reduction technology at a level they classify as "challenging."

Updated May 13, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the future of clean energy jobs

On Thursday, May 13, Axios co-founder Mike Allen, editor-in-chief Nick Johnston and managing editor for politics Margaret Talev unpacked how the American Jobs Plan could create green jobs and shift infrastructure to tackle climate change, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Secretary Granholm discussed energy independence as a national security issue, investing in US-based manufacturing, and the rapid growth of the cleantech industry.

  • On investing in cleantech in the US and increasing exports: “We shouldn't be buying wind turbines from Denmark. We should be building them here and stamping a made in America. And, by the way, we could be exporting them as well."
  • On the jobs of the future in cleantech: "I'm super bullish on the technologies that will get us to the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050...The next generation of both solar and wind technology is material science, buildings, district heating. There's so much happening in the clean energy space that creates jobs."

Sen. Wyden unpacked how policymakers can support jobs in the clean energy sector, as well as bipartisan support for these initiatives.

  • On the existing tax codes around energy: "What I'm prepared to do now as chairman of the Finance Committee is really make a bold transformation with respect to the tax code. It is an outdated, crazy quilt that keeps us from having the certainty and predictability that the country needs in order to really tackle the climate challenge and produce more clean energy jobs."

Gov. Whitmer discussed the manufacturing industry in Michigan, the recent news around the Enbridge pipeline, and the future of cleantech jobs in the state.

  • On the economics of electric vehicle manufacturing: "Electric vehicles [are] putting people to work. This is good for our economy. It's good for our climate change goals, and it's good for individuals seeking great jobs and then protecting the Great Lakes."
  • On the Enbridge pipeline: "The manufacturing came to Michigan because of the water. We've got to protect this water. And this pipeline going through the Straits of Mackinac is a ticking time bomb...We can be great stewards of our environment and keep people in good-paying jobs all at the same time. It's not one or the other."

Thank you Climate Power for sponsoring this event.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!