Reaching Zero with Renewables (Preview)

September 2020

Eliminating CO2 emissions in industry and transport

To avoid catastrophic climate change, the world needs to reach zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in all all sectors of the economy by the 2050s. Effective energy decarbonisation presents a major challenge, especially in key industry and transport sectors.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has produced a comprehensive study of deep decarbonisation options, focused on reaching zero into time to fulfil the Paris Agreement and hold the line on rising global temperatures.

Several sectors stand out as especially hard to decarbonise. Four of the most energy-intensive industries (iron and steel, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement and lime, and aluminium) and three key transport sectors (road freight, aviation, and shipping) could together account for 38% of energy and process emissions and 29% of final energy use by 2050 without major policy changes now, the report finds.

Reaching zero with renewables considers how these sectors could achieve zero emissions by 2060 and assesses the use of renewables and related technologies to achieve this. Decarbonisation options for each sector span efficiency improvements, electrification, direct heat, and fuel production using renewables, along with CO2 removal measures.

Without such measures, energy and process emissions could amount to 11.4 gigatonnes from industry and 8.6 gigatonnes from transport at mid-century, the report indicates. Along with sector-specific actions, cross-cutting actions are needed at higher levels.

The report offers ten broad recommendations for industries and governments:

1. Pursue a renewables-based strategy for end-use sectors with an end goal of zero emissions.

2. Develop a shared vision and strategy and co-develop practical roadmaps involving all major players.

3. Build confidence and knowledge among decision makers.

4. Plan and deploy enabling infrastructure early on.

5. Foster early demand for green products and services.

6. Develop tailored approaches to ensure access to finance.

7. Collaborate across borders.

8. Think globally while utilising national strengths.

9. Establish clear pathways for the evolution of regulations and international standards.

10. Support research, development and systemic innovation.

With the right plans and sufficient support, the goal of reaching zero is achievable, the report shows.

The full report will be available on 21 September 2020.