The toxic smog over the old quarter of Delhi, which forced government to declare public health emergency in Delhi, India, on November 2 2019. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ANADOLU AGENCY/JAVED SULTAN
The toxic smog over the old quarter of Delhi, which forced government to declare public health emergency in Delhi, India, on November 2 2019. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ANADOLU AGENCY/JAVED SULTAN

Chicago — Global economies will need to invest as much as $55-trillion to the middle of the century to meet an emissions goal and contain the warming of the planet, according to a report by a group of executives from energy-intensive companies including ArcelorMittal, BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

Reaching net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050 will require large-scale electrification of industries, buildings and transport, as well as the use of hydrogen and biofuels in areas that can’t be electrified, according to think-tank the Energy Transitions Commission.

Using less energy to produce more and recycling material will aid the efforts. Building renewable power plants will take up the  bulk of the estimated investment.

More frequent and severe natural calamities across the world have heightened the need to contain climate change and end the use of coal and other fossil fuels while expanding clean energy. That’s forcing some of the biggest fossil fuel users to recast their energy mix and adopt greener sources of power.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in a 2018 report that reaching net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century will be key to limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Humanity is on course to miss that mark, with the World Meteorological Organisation saying there is a 20% chance that global temperatures will breach the limit in at least one of the next five years.

The decarbonisation strategy will involve phasing out coal-fired plants, according to the report. Those that remain should be used as a peaking or a seasonal backup to renewable power and should be retrofitted with carbon capture and storage.

The report highlighted some challenges on the way.

China, the world’s biggest coal user, “is not yet on a clear path towards a net-zero economy and new coal investments are continuing despite evidence that renewables are now highly competitive on a new-build basis in most of China’s provinces”, it said.

China can become a fully developed, rich economy with net-zero emissions by 2050 by rapidly deploying renewable power projects and reducing its dependence on coal, according to the report. The country needs to double annual investments in solar and as much as quadruple investments in wind energy, along with accelerating use of clean energy in industries and residential heating.

India, the second biggest coal user, is likely to see consumption of the fuel peak between 2027 and 2030, before gradually sliding down, Ajay Mathur, a co-chair at the Energy Transitions Commission, said. India, which currently produces nearly 65% of its electricity from coal, can do without building new coalfired power plants, as its existing coal fleet is underutilised and can be ramped up to meet any increase in demand, he said.

Yet lack of reliable electricity remains a key challenge for the country, said Mathur, who also heads the New Delhi-based the Energy and Resources Institute.

Bloomberg

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