Net Zero, Our Best Option For Sustainability
Professor Dato Dr Ahmad Ibrahim
Head of Research, Confexhub
Fellow, Academy of Science
A virtual conference will be hosted by US President Joe Biden on 22 to 23 April. Since winning, Joe Biden has reversed the decision of his predecessor, who declared climate change a hoax, to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. The gesture is welcomed by all, viewing such development as a positive sign for global climate. But we Malaysians are concerned about being excluded from the list of 40 world leaders invited for the event. It is unclear why. But we should be concerned if we are not seen as an active player to reduce global carbon emission.
Come November 2021, the Glasgow UNFCCC climate meeting, will set the stage for the next move. Many countries have declared to embrace NET ZERO, where no new emissions are added to the atmosphere. Emissions will instead be balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. The absorbing can be done through forests sink or carbon capture, storage and utilisation. The Paris Agreement calls for keeping the global temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial era levels. Failing to embrace Net Zero will raise global temperature to levels that would endanger the world.
This is why a growing number of countries are committed to achieve carbon neutrality, within the next few decades. It’s a big task, requiring ambitious actions. Net zero by 2050, NZE2050, is the goal. Efforts to reach net-zero must be complemented with adaptation measures, and the mobilization of climate financing for developing countries. Clean energy is a key element in reaching net zero emissions.
The good news is that there are already affordable technologies available to reach net zero. A key element is using clean energy to power economies. Polluting coal should be replaced with renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar farms. Renewable energy is now not only cleaner, but often cheaper than fossil fuels. Transport is a major source of emissions. A complete switch to electric transport, powered by renewable energy, would contribute hugely to lowering emissions. Electric vehicles are rapidly becoming cheaper and more efficient, and many countries and leading car brands have proposed plans to phase out the sale of fossil-fuel powered cars. Is Malaysia gearing itself for the new opportunity?
What will Net Zero deliver? If all such Net Zero measures are in place in power generation, CO2 emissions from the power sector will decline by around 60% between 2019 and 2030. Worldwide annual solar PV additions will expand from 110 GW in 2019 to nearly 500 GW in 2030. The share of renewables in global electricity supply will rise from 27% in 2019 to 60% in 2030, while the share provided by coal plants without carbon capture falls sharply from 37% in 2019 to 6% in 2030. Power sector investment nearly will triple from $760 billion in 2019 to $2 200 billion in 2030, with more than one-third spent to expand, modernise and digitalise electricity networks. At the same time, CO2 emissions from end-uses would fall by one-third between 2019 and 2030. Half of all air conditioners sold globally between 2020 and 2030 are the most efficient models available. Over 50% of passenger cars sold in 2030 are electric, up from 2.5% in 2019. Around 25% of total heat used in industry in 2030 comes from electricity and low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen. Global battery manufacturing capacity would need to double every two years, and hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure would need to ramp up substantially.
Analysis of existing net-zero commitments provides a number of useful lessons. Electrification is central to emissions reduction but low-carbon fuels such as hydrogen are also needed. In its World Energy Outlook (WEO) report published recently, the International Energy Agency, IEA, said global emissions must fall by 40% by 2030 on the path to 2050 carbon neutrality. This would involve large scale investment in renewables and electric cars, behaviour change and innovation in new technologies like hydrogen. All these will be deliberated by world experts at a Net Zero conference on June 8-11, 2021 hosted by the CONFEHUB group. Many are convinced that Net Zero, effectively implemented, will make global concerns over climate change history.