A risk management specialist is warning the mass adoption of electric vehicles using “green” electricity will do little to help the world meet the Paris Agreement’s target of net zero emissions.
The study by DNV contends that even if all electricity was derived from sustainable sources from this day forward, the world will still fall a long way short of achieving the 2050 target to help reduce global warming.
Its Energy Transition Outlook, now in its fifth year and launched two months before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference takes place in Glasgow, U.K., claims to be an independent forecast of developments in the global energy system to 2050.
DNV’s 2021 report describes the global pandemic as a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the energy transition, because COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting rather than transforming existing industries. The report predicts electrification is on course to double in size within a generation and renewables are already the most competitive source of new power.
However, DNV’s forecast shows global emissions will be reduced by just 9% by 2030, with the 1.5˚C carbon budget agreed by global economies exceeded by then. The Paris Agreement was intended to keep global warming to “well below 2°C” and strive to limit its increase to 1.5°C.
The organization says while a rapid transition to a decarbonized energy system is expected, it remains too little to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and warns the planet will most probably reach global warming of 2.3˚C by end of the century.
DNV states reductions in the use of fossil fuels have been remarkably quick, yet these sources, and especially gas, will still constitute 50% of the global energy mix by 2050. This will increase the urgency needed to invest in and scale hydrogen, carbon capture and storage.
The report also suggests that while 69% of grid-connected power will be generated by wind and solar in 2050, and indirect electrification, such as hydrogen and e-fuels plus biofuels remain critical, none of these sources are scaling rapidly enough.
Hydrogen is the energy carrier that holds the highest potential to tackle hard-to-abate emissions; however, DNV’s forecast indicates hydrogen only starting to scale from the mid-2030s and, even then, only building to 5% of the energy mix by 2050.
Remi Eriksen, group president and CEO of DNV, says: “We’ve seen governments around the world take extraordinary steps to manage the effects of the pandemic and stimulate a recovery. However, I am deeply concerned about what it will take for governments to apply the resolution and urgency they have shown in the face of the pandemic to our climate. We must now see the same sense of urgency to avoid a climate catastrophe.
“Many of the pandemic recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries. A lot of ‘building back’ as opposed to ‘building better’ and although this is a lost opportunity, it is not the last we have for transitioning faster to a deeply decarbonized energy system.
“Extraordinary action will be needed to bring the hydrogen economy into full force earlier, but these are extraordinary times,” Eriksen says. “The window to avoid catastrophic climate change is closing soon, and the costs of not doing so unimaginable.”