In the run-up to the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, more than 80 countries announced pledges to reach net-zero emissions around mid-century. Most Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations aim to reach net zero by 2050, while developing countries plan to get there a decade or two later. China and India aim to reach net zero by 2060 and 2070, respectively. For more, read How Are The Leading Countries Faring On The Path To Net Zero?

Key Takeaways

  • Wood Mackenzie’s inaugural Global Net Zero Pledges Case Scenario finds that energy-related emissions in the pledges case scenario decline 8% from 2019 levels by 2030 and by 80% by 2050. Global net zero arrives around 2060, taking cumulative emissions to around 750 billion tons of CO2.
  • Compared with the base case, power demand expands by about 40% under the pledges scenario, with green hydrogen the single largest source of incremental growth by 2050.
  • Around 90% of incremental capacity comes from wind, solar, and energy storage. 
  • Low-carbon dispatchable generation becomes critical due to higher wind and solar penetration. Markets shift to investing in ammonia co-firing, hydrogen combustion, and carbon capture and storage to provide flexible generation.
  • Hydrogen production reaches 500 to 630 million tons per annum under the pledges and net-zero scenarios, respectively.

Path to 100% Perspective

The urgency of the climate crisis demands that the power sector pioneers the rapid decarbonization of economies worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency’s 2050 roadmap, there is a viable pathway to a global net zero emissions energy sector by 2050 – but it’s narrow and calls for a transformation in how energy is produced, transported, stored, and used globally. Countries must front-load the transition toward net zero, taking major steps in the next few years to tackle the climate crisis.

Fortunately, power generation is undergoing a rapid transformation toward cleaner energy sources due to huge additions of low-cost renewable electricity. There is also a wide array of potential future fuels, including hydrogen, that can help to phase out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy. Adding more flexible gas generation that can convert to sustainable fuels and closing inflexible fossil assets will also be key in the final push to decarbonize energy systems.