Move to renewable energy must be people-centred, report says

A new, groundbreaking report by the International Energy Agency seeks to provide guidance to governments, companies and the public sector on steps that can be taken to decarbonise the energy sector and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Titled Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the global energy sector, the report will assist stakeholders in the energy sector to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as required by the Paris Agreement

The report sets out clear milestones, spanning all sectors and technologies, for what needs to happen and by when in order to transform the economy from one that is reliant on fossil fuels to one powered by renewable energy such as solar and wind.

“The transition to net zero is for and by people. It’s paramount to remain aware that not every worker in the fossil fuel industry can ease into a clean energy job, so governments need to promote training and devote resources to facilitating new opportunities. Citizens must be active participants in the entire process, making them feel part of the transition and not just subject to it,” the report says.

According to the report, in order for net-zero emissions to be a reality, there must be immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies.

“In the net‐zero emissions pathway presented in this report, the world economy in 2030 is some 40% larger than today but uses 7% less energy. A major worldwide push to increase energy efficiency is an essential part of these efforts, resulting in the annual rate of energy intensity improvements averaging 4% to 2030, about three times the average rate achieved over the last two decades.”

The report says that, based on the suggested roadmap, if there is concerted effort to deploy all available measures and clean energy technologies, emissions from the burning of fossil fuels could fall by 75% in the next 10 years. 

It stresses that a shift in policy-making is key to cleaner energy transition, and that despite the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies, governments must ensure their investments and spending align with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions. 

“Policies should be strengthened to speed the deployment of clean and efficient energy technologies. Fossil fuel subsidy phase‐outs, carbon pricing and other market reforms can ensure appropriate price signals. Policies should limit or provide disincentives for the use of certain fuels and technologies, such as unabated coal‐fired power stations, gas boilers and conventional internal combustion engine vehicles,” the report advises.

It says that these changes will affect multiple aspects of people’s lives, from transport, heating and cooking to urban planning and jobs. 

“We estimate that around 55% of the cumulative emissions reductions in the pathway are linked to consumer choices such as purchasing an electronic vehicle, retrofitting a house with energy‐efficient technologies or installing a heat pump,” says the report.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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