This Reaching zero with renewables study outlines the best available deep decarbonisation options for those sectors. Prepared by the International Renewable
Energy Agency (IRENA), it supports the aim of holding the global temperature rise at 1.5o C this century, compared to pre-industrial levels.
Progress in these sectors has been limited to date. But two changes in recent years should allow for faster and deeper cuts in emissions. Firstly, societies worldwide have come to recognise the need for deep decarbonisation across all sectors, despite the
challenges involved. Secondly, steady and continuing cost reductions for renewable energy open up a wider range of technology options.
Renewable energy technologies, along with batteries and other enabling technologies, are now proven to be effective and affordable, in every country, for a growing range of applications. Renewables show more potential – whether for direct energy use or as
feedstocks – than ever before. This makes them crucial to reach zero emissions.
Realising a renewables-based strategy for reaching zero
None of the options outlined in the Reaching zero with renewables report are commercially mature and ready for wide adoption; many uncertainties remain about their potential and optimum use, and none will be easy to adopt. The reasons are varied and complex but include: the high costs of new technologies and processes; the need for enabling infrastructure ahead of demand; highly integrated operations and
long-established practices; uneven, large and longterm investment needs; gaps in carbon accounting; and competitiveness and carbon leakage risks for first-movers.
Addressing these challenges needs to be the focus of far more attention and creativity than is currently being applied. Sector-specific actions are explored in the report, but at the higher level there are a number of cross-cutting actions that should be addressed with urgency.
The world has made remarkable progress in the last decade in developing renewable energy sources and has made positive steps towards decarbonising power systems. Collectively it must now seek to make comparable progress in addressing carbon emissions in end-use sectors. That 40-year transition has barely begun, but it warrants far greater attention, planning, ingenuity and resources now if progress is to be made
fast enough. There are significant challenges but also a range of promising options –particularly those that make use of low-cost and abundant renewable resources. With the right plans and sufficient support, the goal of reaching zero emissions in key transport and industry sectors is achievable.