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Climate science vs energy security: the new challenges to reaching net zero

While climate science calls for urgent action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, concerns for energy security will add complexity to achieving a net zero economy. Governments and corporates should find a pathway that best suits them, set interim targets, report progress against these targets, and invest early with a long-term mindset

In this article

What a year for energy security, energy transition and climate change

IPCC report shows increased concern about climate risks

There are multiple ways to reach a net zero economy…

…but key uncertainties make it hard to predict the optimal pathway

Energy security concerns have added to the complexity too

US: Difficulty advancing climate ambition, risking reversals

EU broadening the path of carbon pricing for emission reduction


What a year for energy security, energy transition and climate change

The Russia-Ukraine war – and the consequent energy crisis – has complicated the discussion around the global energy transition and climate change.

The topic of energy security will continue to be important for policymakers, corporate decision-makers, and investors as they plan their pathways toward a net zero economy.

But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the routes to net zero are becoming more complex, with its calls for immediate and bold action turning louder each year.

More than one year into the war, and in light of a recently published IPCC report, we examine what the science of climate change means for the global economy, how energy security comes into play, and what that means for the energy transition worldwide.

IPCC report shows increased concern about climate risks

IPCC, an intergovernmental agency of the United Nations, is considered the most authoritative source of scientific assessments of climate change. In March, the organisation released the Synthesis Report of its sixth assessment cycle, which not only provides a comprehensive and evolving analysis of climate science, but also offers recommendations for policymakers. Some of the key messages of this report include:

The world has already reached 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial levels, which has led to detrimental impacts not seen in human history. This indicates that the door to limiting global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of increase is rapidly closing. But luckily, it remains open for now, and to get there, all economic sectors across the world need to be involved in rapid and strong actions to reduce emissions.

For the first time in its history, the IPCC concludes that the world already has too much unabated fossil fuel production. According to the report, the existing unabated fossil fuel infrastructure is already large enough to deplete the world’s 500 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon budget – the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowed to be emitted if we are to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius with a 50% likelihood of success. The report also finds that current investment in fossil fuels still exceeds that for climate adaption and mitigation. This could add more pressure to negotiations to phase down fossil fuel use at COP28 this year, as well as more pressure for companies with large fossil fuel footprints to decarbonise faster.

Like last year’s report, the IPCC highlights the essential role of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS), in bringing down global emissions. There is a distinction between the two: although both CDR (e.g. forestation, direct air capture, bioenergy with CCS, etc.) and CCS involve capturing CO2 and storing them underground, CDR results in a net decrease in emissions but CCS does not since it only captures the extra emissions from economic activities. Nevertheless, both methods are highlighted in the IPCC report. The report emphasises that CDR will be essential from now on to bring global emissions to net zero, and CCS is crucial in slashing emissions from fossil fuels and the industrial sector.

Do you agree?

25 more agrees trigger social media ads

  • Tabitha Kimani

    65 w

    Transition requires a lot of sacrifice and minding our tomorrow.

    • Mc Kaka

      65 w

      It's not a wake in the park to work on policies that favor nature, and Biodiversity however we are ot giving up soon

      • Joseph Githinji

        65 w

        The world must be ready to face all challenges along the way and be strong enough to pay the price to reach to net zero.

        • Munene Mugambi

          65 w

          We'll face many challenges on the way to net zero. Question is, can we overcome?

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