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World can hit net zero emissions goal if $1-2 trillion spent a year

Lianna Brinded

Originally published 9.16.2020

The world is able to achieve its net zero emissions goal by 2050 if it sinks considerable investment into the cause, according to a report by the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC)

The global coalition of 40 energy producers, industrial companies and financial institutions said it would cost an estimated $1tn to $2tn (£774.83bn to £1.55tn) a year. This is equivalent to 1-1.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

“There is no doubt that it is technically and economically possible to reach the zero-carbon economy which we need by 2050; and zero must mean zero, not a plan which relies on the permanent and large-scale use of “offsets” to balance continued GHG emissions. But action in the next decade is crucial — otherwise it will be too late,” ETC co-chair Adair Turner said.

The group laid out three key ways for an economy to achieve net zero status:

Graphic: ETC
Graphic: ETC

Annual global electricity supply will have to grow four to five times to reach 90,000-115,000 terawatt hours and the annual pace of wind and solar capacity will need to significantly improve by five to six times that of what it achieved in 2019.

Chart: SYSTEMIQ analysis for the Energy Transitions Commission analysis (2020), IEA (2019), World Energy Outlook
Chart: SYSTEMIQ analysis for the Energy Transitions Commission analysis (2020), IEA (2019), World Energy Outlook

Last year, the UK government pledged to make the economy net zero by 2050.

This month, the Climate Assembly UK published a report on how Britain can achieve that goal and delivered it to six Parliamentary Select Committees.

Among its 50 recommendations, it said that Brits cutting down on eating meat and dairy by 20-40% will help the UK hit its net zero emissions goal. It also recommended that the UK government consider a special tax for frequent fliers.

Meanwhile a number of large businesses and banks are pledging to help the cause.

Earlier this year, Barclays (BARC.L) became one of the first banks to publicly sign-up to a new cross-industry initiative aimed at increasing the flow of financing of ‘green’ projects.

Barclays was among five banks to commit to the Bankers for NetZero project in July, alongside Sweden’s Handelsbanken (SHB-A.ST), ethical bank Triodos, the Ecological Building Society, and fintech Tide.

“The capital ratio is much higher for an obviously green project than for a non-green project because it’s deemed more risky,” Louise Kjellerup Roper, chief executive of research and advisory firm Volans, told Yahoo Finance UK.

“We have to look at why that is if we want to go towards renewables and retrofitting and some of those less carbon intensive industries — why are we deeming them more risky?”

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