A new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) charts pathways to accelerate energy transformation in order to meet climate objectives while creating jobs and fostering economic growth.

Photo IRENA roadmap for global energy transformation

A new report from IRENA indicates that renewable energies could meet 86% of global power demand by 2050.

As the urgency to take bold climate action grows, new analysis by IRENA finds that scaling-up renewable energy combined with electrification could deliver more than three quarters of the energy-related emissions reductions needed to meet global climate goals. According to the latest edition of IRENA’s Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050, launched in early April at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, pathways to meet 86% of global power demand with renewable energy exist. Electricity would cover half of the global final energy mix and global power supply would more than double over this period, with the bulk of it generated from renewable energy, mostly solar PV and wind.

IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said, “The race to secure a climate-safe future has entered a decisive phase. Renewable energy is the most effective and readily available solution for reversing the trend of rising CO2 emissions. A combination of renewable energy with a deeper electrification can achieve 75 percent of the energy-related emissions reduction needed.”

The report indicates that an accelerated energy transition in line with the Roadmap to 2050 would also save the global economy up to US$ 160 trillion, cumulatively, over the next 30 years, in avoided health costs, energy subsidies and climate damages. It is calculated that every dollar spent on the energy transition would pay off up to seven times. The global economy would grow by 2,5% in 2050. However, the report also warns that climate damages can lead to significant socioeconomic losses.

“The shift towards renewables makes economic sense,” said La Camera. “By mid-century, the global economy would be larger and jobs created in the energy sector would boost global employment by (an estimated) 0.2 percent. Policies to promote a just, fair and inclusive transition could maximise the benefits for different countries, regions and communities. This would also contribute to achieving affordable and universal energy access. The global energy transformation goes beyond a transformation of the energy sector. It entails a transformation of our economies and societies.” 

But action is lagging, the report warns. While energy-related CO2 emissions continued to grow by more than 1% annually on average over the past five years, emissions would need to decline by 70% below their current level by 2050 in order to meet global climate goals. This calls for a significant increase in national ambitions and more aggressive renewable energy and climate targets.

IRENA’s roadmap recommends that national policy focus on zero-carbon long-term strategies. It also highlights the need to boost and harness systemic innovation. This includes fostering smarter energy systems through digitalisation as well as the coupling of end-use sectors, particularly heating and cooling and transport, via greater electrification, promoting decentralisation and designing flexible power grids.

La Camera said, “The energy transformation is gaining momentum, but it must accelerate faster. The UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the review of national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement are milestones for raising ambitions. Urgent action is needed on the ground, particularly in unlocking investments to further strengthen the momentum of the energy transformation. The world in 2050 depends on the energy decisions we take today.”

For more information, visit the IRENA website to download the 2019 Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050.

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