Research Shortfall Hits Climate Goals: IEA
A massive increase in research and development spending is needed if the world is to achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets without damaging energy security, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned July 2 in a new report. And it does not see these targets as realistic, given today's other challenges.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said that "the message is very clear: in the absence of much faster clean energy innovation, achieving net-zero goals in 2050 will be all but impossible."
"The public and private sectors are currently falling short of delivering the innovation efforts to back up their net-zero ambitions – and the Covid-19 crisis is threatening to further undermine projects around the world focused on developing vital new energy technologies," the report says.
Some major sectors such as shipping, trucking, aviation and heavy industries like steel, cement and chemicals have no commercial solution for net-zero emissions. "The innovation process that takes a product from the research lab to the mass market can be long, and success is not guaranteed. It took decades for solar panels and batteries to reach the stage they are at now. Time is in even shorter supply now," the report says.
Notably, the report highlights the importance of making sure crucial clean energy solutions are ready in time for the start of multi-decade investment cycles in key industries. If key technologies become available by 2030 to take advantage of the next round of plant refurbishments in heavy industry, nearly 60 gigatons of carbon emissions could be avoided, it said.
Another issue is that many of the clean energy technologies that are available today – such as offshore wind turbines, electric vehicles and certain applications of carbon capture, utilisation and storage – need a continued push on innovation to bring down costs and accelerate deployment.
The IEA stresses that market-based policies and funding can help scale up value chains for small, modular technologies with overlapping innovation needs like new types of batteries and electrolysers, significantly advancing their progress.
The IEA is hosting a clean energy transition summit July 9, which will bring together more than 40 government ministers, industry CEOs and other energy leaders from countries representing 80% of global energy use and emissions. "The aim is to build a grand coalition to help drive economic development and job creation by accelerating transitions towards clean, resilient and inclusive energy systems," it said.