The climate challenge? An obligation, but also a major opportunity

Only a new alliance between science, governments and private companies can save the world from the climate catastrophe. An enormous challenge, one that can only be won by taking immediate action to make up for lost time. The IEA, the International Energy Agency, sets out the roadmap in its report “Net Zero by 2050”.

Only a new alliance between science, governments and private companies can save the world from the climate catastrophe. An enormous challenge, one that can only be won by taking immediate action to make up for lost time. A challenge marked by sacrifice? Not at all. On closer inspection, the world’s salvation may well be a powerful stage of new businesses. Saving the future of new generations with just good business? The IEA, the International Energy Agency, believes so. And outlines the roadmap in its report Net Zero by 2050.

A serious process for the energy transition, to be consolidated by 2030 with the goal of neutralising greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, could create at least 30 million new jobs across the world, in both industrial and developing areas: 14 million – assesses the IEA – thanks to investments in clean energy and 16 million in the manufacturing sectors, which will become a driver (from new-generation electrical appliances and electric vehicles, to the immense world of energy efficiency solutions for buildings). New investments in fossil fuels? Stop. There will be no need for them, simply because fossil use should drastically decrease before disappearing completely, with electricity generation fuelling most transport in the meantime. In the interim, also thanks to the overall increase in energy efficiency, not only will the global demand for energy in the second half of the century not increase, but, despite an increase in every development indicator, it might be around 8% lower than today’s levels.

Ice caps melting due to climate change in the seas of Alaska (Melissa Bradley/Unsplash.com)

The “gift” to be achieved. With an estimate made alongside the International Monetary Fund, the IEA assesses that annual investment in the new energy paradigm will jump to $ 5 trillion by 2030, the annual growth of global GDP increasing by nearly half a point. Some will approve: certainly strategists and operators of renewables. And most certainly battery manufacturers, which in 2030 will be called upon to meet the demand for 6,600 GWh, 40 times what they make today. Large companies involved in the development of electricity grids will also approve, given that annual investment in energy transmission between now and 2030 is to triple, reaching $ 820 billion. The (increasingly fewer) advocates of nuclear energy will not have much to fear either: a portion of atomic energy, though below 10%, will continue to be considered “physiological” in the green balance of energy.

Some, such as oil companies, may be slightly less accepting, but not necessarily. It is no secret that the biggest names in oil, not just those in the west, have been preparing for some time now for a rapid reconversion to the new creed of clean energy, or at least cleaner than it is now. Just as it is not a given (though perhaps it was until five years or so ago) that the main car manufacturers must slow down further acceleration in electric vehicles: their conversion is under the scrutiny of all. If anything, the institutions are responsible for facilitating the major challenge with political strategies, infrastructure, fiscal policies and legislation.

The IEA urges them to be ready. It establishes a number of indispensable benchmarks, in what seems like a time trial with individual stages.

Aerial view of a coal mine in Poland (Curioso Photography/Pexels.com)

The stopwatch and the compulsory stages. Speed, we were saying. The essential stages? Here are just a few examples of the main benchmarks to be met. Starting this year, no new coal-fired power stations should be designed or planned (this message is for China especially). Fewer and fewer new coal mines should be explored, but this would also concern new plans for oil and gas exploration. The next essential stage comes in 2025, when practices for heating water with fossil fuels should simply disappear from the earth, argues the IEA. Then the progression towards 2030, when all new public and private buildings must be emissions neutral; at least 60% of new cars sold must be electric; the heavy industry must have planned its full reconversion to clean technology. Just five years later, in 2035, half of heavy transport must be electric. Then comes 2040, when at least 50% of old existing buildings should be made compatible with “retrofit” operations. In the meantime, the world’s last coal-fired power station will have been closed.

Five years later, in 2045, 50% of the global heating demand should be met with heat pumps. Finally, the 2050 target. To cross the finish line properly, more than 85% of buildings must be zero emissions, more than 90% of heavy industry must respect strict emissions parameters and at least 70% of the planet’s global electricity generation must derive from solar and wind power. A clean world. Undoubtedly richer than it would be, warns the IEA, if we do not move fast and overcome the challenge.