Time is the key restraint to realising the Pathway to Net-Zero Emissions – DNV

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Time is the key restraint to realising the Pathway to Net-Zero Emissions, rather than money, according to certification company DNV in its latest report.

Even with very large investments required, particularly in the short term, (cumulatively $55 trillion in renewables and $35 trillion in grids over 30 years) the additional costs of reaching 1.5°C are less than 1% of global GDP the next 30 years, states DNV.

A feasible path to limit planetary warming to 1.5°C requires certain countries and sectors to go below net-zero and to do so well before the middle of the century, according to DNV.

The report states that to achieve zero emissions by 2050, North America and Europe must be carbon neutral by 2042 and then carbon-negative thereafter. Greater China must also reduce emissions by 98% from 2019 levels by 2050. Regions such as the Indian subcontinent cannot realistically transition completely away from fossil fuels in the same timeframe, according to the study.

The so-called hard-to-abate sectors will take longer to decarbonise and even if sectors like maritime (-90% CO2 emissions in 2050) and iron and steel production (-82%) scale up the introduction of greener technologies, they will still be net emitters by 2050, states the report.

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Remi Eriksen, Group President and CEO of DNV, said: “Zero is not enough. That is because, try as they might, many developing nations and hard-to-abate sectors will not be able to achieve zero emissions by 2050 – the critical threshold for the world to stay within 1.5°C of warming.

“Developed nations, leading companies and easy-to-electrify sectors are therefore going to have to go below zero before 2050.”

The primary energy mix laid out in the net-zero report is radically different from the current trajectory.  Electricity meets just above half (51%) of the energy demand with wind and solar supplying 86% of electricity.  Hydrogen, which is vital to decarbonize the hard-to-abate sectors, has a 13% share. 

Fossil fuels will still be required by countries and industries that are unable to decarbonize completely by 2050.  21% of the energy mix is derived from fossil fuels (8% oil, 10% natural gas and 3% coal), although there will be no need for new oil and gas fields after 2028 in this pathway.  Carbon capture and removal technologies are a must according to the net-zero report to remove the final 20% of emissions.  Nuclear does not feature prominently because it is too costly compared to renewable energy.

The mid-term aim of the Paris Agreement to halve emissions compared to 2017 levels by 2030 is out of reach and the net zero report puts emission reduction at 30% at this point.  However, for technologies to become scalable further down the line – such as hydrogen and CCS – investments and reshaping of policies must start now. Simultaneously, a massive ramping up of solar and wind needs to start immediately to accelerate the green electrification of the energy system beyond the current fast pace of change. 

Find out more about the report.