The rapid growth in solar panels and electric vehicles is helping to reduce fossil fuel use and limit global warming. Still, more aggressive action is needed to meet climate and net-zero emission goals, a new report found. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released its 2023 update of its landmark Net Zero Roadmap from 2021. The update found that global carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector reached a new record high of 37 billion tons in 2022, just above pre-pandemic levels. CO2 emissions will peak during this decade as the speed of clean energy technology development continues to build. The IEA also predicts that demand for for coal, oil and natural gas will all peak this decade even without any new climate policies, yet these developments are not enough to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C. Record growth in solar power capacity and electric car sales since 2021 are in line with a pathway towards net zero emissions globally by mid-century, and new manufacturing capacity is helping to boost their use. These two technologies will be responsible for one-third of the emissions reductions between today and 2930, the report states, and new clean energy technologies are providing lower costs and more options. But the path to meeting climate goals has narrowed, and “bolder action is necessary this decade,” the report states. Continued rapid adoption of solar power, EVs, and heat pumps will help, and greater energy efficiency and lower energy sector methane emissions will deliver large benefits. Yet more needs to be done. The updated report said large new and repurposed electricity infrastructure networks, large quantities of low-emissions fuels, technologies to capture CO2 from smokestacks and the atmosphere, and more nuclear power; and large land areas for renewables, need to be developed. Electric grids need to expand each year, and the report encourages a “build big” mentality to expedite decision-making, while still following environmental safeguards. In addition, rapid progress in the development of carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen technologies is also needed, as these will be critical pieces to meet climate targets. “The history of CCUS has largely been one of underperformance. Although the recent surge of announced projects for CCUS and hydrogen is encouraging, the majority have yet to reach a final investment decision and need further policy support to boost demand and facilitate new enabling infrastructure,” the report states. Countries need to cooperate to meet climate goals, and do so now, the report said. By 2035, emissions need to decline by 80% in advanced economies and 60% in emerging markets and developing economies compared to the 2022 level. “The energy sector is changing faster than many people think, but much more needs to be done and time is short,” the report states, reiterating the need for urgency.
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