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A "net zero" world will require $75 trillion of investment and 1 billion electric cars

The world needs to invest $2.7 trillion per year, or about $75 trillion, between now and 2050 to achieve net zero emissions, energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie has reported.  

In line with the plans to prevent the severe effects of climate change, scientists believe it is important for countries around the world to strive towards limiting the global average temperature to 1.5°C. To do this, world governments will have to cut emissions to as close to net zero as possible by 2050. This goal was laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement

To achieve net zero, we must also increase the number of electric cars by ten-times over current figures, booming from 43 million today to more than a billion electric vehicles on the road in 20 years. Achieving this goal will require more than double the current production of lithium, which is used to make the batteries that power EVs.

Most countries won’t reach net zero in time

Analysts at Wood Mackenzie have hinted that many countries aren’t on course to achieve their 2030 emissions goals, much less those for 2050.  According to the United Nations, existing pledges to reduce emissions will result in at least 2.5C of warming by 2050, which scientists say would be a complete and total disaster.

Simon Flowers, chief analyst at Wood Mackenzie said, “Achieving 1.5°C is going to be extremely challenging, but it is possible and greatly depends on actions taken this decade. Sustained investment is critical for both the existing and new supply of zero and low-carbon energy sources.”

Reaching net zero won’t be easy

In addition to the enormous investment required for climate change mitigation, which is higher than the gross domestic product of most countries, the analysts project that solar and wind power would need to supply 63% of our energy in a 1.5C world, up from 13% today.

Furthermore, the world would require 500 million tons of hydrogen. Producers currently make hydrogen in limited, expensive amounts.

According to the report’s lead author, Prakash Sharma, the move should see electricity replace oil and gas as the world’s main energy market. This would deplete fossil fuels naturally as developers create cleaner options.

All eyes are now watching the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai. At the end of this year, world leaders will conduct the first-ever ‘’global stocktake’’ to assess their efforts in keeping global temperatures at or below the 1.5C mark.

Attendees also expect funding to be a major topic of discussion at the conference. Developing countries are leading a campaign for wealthier nations to shoulder more of the cost due to their more sizable contribution to climate change. 

Wood Mackenzie published their “Energy transition outlook” on their website.

More about the global stocktake

As the threats of climate change intensify, international cooperation and commitment are of paramount importance. The 2015 Paris Agreement, the most ambitious global initiative to date, seeks to strengthen the global response to this impending crisis.

Central to the Paris Agreement’s effectiveness is an accountability mechanism known as the “global stocktake.”

What is the global stocktake?

The global stocktake is a periodic review process introduced under the Paris Agreement. Occurring every five years starting in 2023, its primary objective is to assess the collective progress of nations towards achieving the agreement’s goals and reaching net zero. These goals are:

  1. Limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
  2. Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.
  3. Making finance flows consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

How does it help the world reach net zero?

The global stocktake serves multiple critical functions:

  1. Accountability: It holds nations accountable for their commitments, ensuring they aren’t just making empty promises.
  2. Adaptability: By providing a platform to review progress and shortfalls, the stocktake allows for the continuous evolution of strategies and targets.
  3. Transparency: It offers a clear and open platform for sharing information. The stocktake ensures that nations can learn from one another’s successes and challenges.

How does it work?

The process of the global stocktake is inclusive, transparent, and comprehensive:

  1. Data Collection: Countries submit detailed reports on their efforts and achievements so far. They must also submit future plans for reaching net zero emissions reductions, adaptation measures, and support provided or received.
  2. Technical Assessment: This phase involves a rigorous examination of the data to gauge collective progress.
  3. High-Level Discussion: Here, country representatives come together to discuss findings, share insights, and determine future actions.

Challenges and criticisms

While the global stocktake is a robust mechanism, it isn’t without challenges:

  1. Data Reliability: Ensuring the submitted data is accurate and comparable across nations is a substantial challenge.
  2. Differing Capacities: Some nations may struggle more than others in providing detailed reports due to varying levels of resources and expertise.
  3. Non-binding Nature: The Paris Agreement’s commitments are nationally determined and voluntary, making enforcement challenging.

In summary, the global stocktake represents a critical component of the Paris Agreement’s design. It strives to ensure that the world remains on course to combat climate change effectively.

By providing a structured, iterative, and transparent review process, the stocktake ensures that nations remain accountable, strategies stay adaptable, and the global community remains united in its efforts.

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