On Wednesday August 18th , 2021, the Oxford Energy Society (OES) has run a joint online panel discussion event with the European Young Entrepreneurs (EYE). Notable climate and energy researchers, pursuing the technological, policy, and financial aspects of climate energy transitions, have introduced a fruitful discussion on the recent IEA Net Zero Report and the green technologies proposed by the report.

The IEA Report, “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” published in May 2021, has instigated much discussion on its feasibility and progressiveness. The report (link: Net Zero by 2050 – Analysis – IEA) strongly acknowledges the recent aggravation and the global risk from the energy-related CO2 emissions and the consequential temperature rise. To taper energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, especially conventional fossil fuel-related emissions, this report presents the IEA’s global roadmap in clean energy expansion and the modelled technological, political, and financial aspects for this transition.

Calling for a massive clean energy push to reach net zero by 2050 and for the immediate halting in further development in the oil and gas industries, the report strongly asserts that “there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway.” This report has received many backlash – both by the countries and the global Petroleum industries, due to the alleged lack of feasibility and consideration in global energy supply. Namely, Japan and Australia have called out that the IEA’s goals and recommendation are impractical and inadequate in addressing rising energy demand, mitigating energy security risks, and discussing factors that hinder the implementation of low-carbon technologies, such as the Japanese society’s fear towards Nuclear Power since the Fukushima disaster.

Starting with Prof. Jonathan Stern’s keynote speaker presentation, the panelists, Prof. Nick Eyre, Dr. Sivapriya Bhagavathy, Dr. Colin Nolden, and Dr. Katherine Collett took turn to share their insights. To watch the recording of the panel discussion, please visit this link.

Key Takeaways

To name a few of the important takeaways from this seminar, the panelists mentioned the caveats of the IEA Net Report 2050: although it sets an important milestone and goals for combatting climate change, the suggestion presented is just “one of the solutions”, not the only solution. Furthermore, the modelling difficulties present in the report also cannot be discounted, such as considering the world as an Advanced or an EMDE (Emerging and Developing Economies) without regional granularity or taking the oil and LNG supply and price projections into account.

Another key takeaway is that the role of green technology’s diverse aspects is crucial for combatting climate change; not only reducing CO2 emissions but also numerous other factors decide which technology is relevant in the green revolution, including industrial byproducts, storing ability, economics, shipping, and transport, which shapes what green technology should be put as a priority over other types.

Finally, the IEA Report suggests realistic goals for the MEDC (More Economically Developed Countries) such as no sales of internal combustion engines by 2035 or the complete transition into green energy sources, yet the goals are not necessarily accomplishable for the EMDE countries due to the infrastructure and affordability; since the climate change is a global problem, the advanced countries shall take responsibility supporting the developing countries by developing cheaper, affordable, and appropriate technologies along with economic and political incentives to join the green transition.

Combating, and more importantly, coping with climate change is a highly multifaceted issue that not only means environmental protection matter, but also that political, diplomatic, financial, and social factors must not be discounted.

Justin Joo

Justin Joo is an Earth Sciences student at the University of Oxford

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