THE BREAKTHROUGH AGENDA REPORT Accelerating Sector Transitions Through Stronger International Collaboration 2022


The world remains far off track to meet internationally-agreed climate change goals, despite action being taken in many areas. The Nationally Determined Contributions that countries have put forward in the UN climate change negotiations imply a lower emissions trajectory now than they did before, and most countries have committed to achieving net zero emissions by around the middle century, as have many businesses. Yet, global emissions, which must be halved this decade to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, are still increasing. The energy crisis and threat of a global food crisis that the world now faces underline the equal urgency of increasing the affordability, accessibility, resilience, and security of supply of humanity’s most essential commodities and services. Transitions to sustainability can reduce the likelihood of such crises occurring in future.

Action in the five sectors for which the signatories have so far agreed on goals under the Breakthrough Agenda – power, hydrogen, road transport, steel, and agriculture – is essential to achieving international climate goals. Global greenhouse gas emissions have now reached almost 60 GtCO2e and these sectors today account for over 50% of that total (IPCC, 2022). Clean technologies and sustainable solutions are not yet the most affordable or accessible options in these sectors except in the power sector; and even in the power sector, this is not yet the case in all countries. Meeting the Breakthrough Agenda goals in these sectors will require concerted action from governments, businesses and civil society. And doing so could enable all countries to make faster progress, greatly increasing the chances of avoiding more dangerous levels of climate change and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.


Countries collectively accounting for over 90% of global GDP have committed to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by around the middle of this century (Net Zero Tracker, 2022). This is a remarkable degree of alignment: there is no doubt about our shared goals for moving to a resilient, low-carbon economy. To achieve these goals, purposeful, collaborative and structural change in the global economy is required at a pace and scale unprecedented in human history. It is clear that we are not yet on track to meet those goals. Global emissions are still rising, yet they need to be halved within the course of this decade to put the world on course for limiting the rise in global average temperatures to 1.5°C. As countries all over the world increasingly suffer from extreme weather events, the need for faster progress in adaptation and resilience is more urgent than ever. Where the right policies have already been put in place, progress has, in some cases, exceeded expectations. Driven by successively stronger deployment policies, solar power costs have fallen by a steep 85% between 2010 and 2020 (IRENA, 2021) and are now the cheapest source of electricity in history (IEA, 2020a). Its global deployment in 2020 was more than ten times higher than governments’ targets only fifteen years earlier had suggested (IRENA, 2021). The growth in wind power has similarly outpaced expectations.
Helped by falling battery costs, supportive policies, and increased industry investment, electric vehicles are set to be the next chapter in clean energy successes. These achievements show that rapid change is not impossible.

The power sector contributes to around a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions and almost 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. In 2020, low-carbon technologies generated nearly 40% of electricity. Renewables generated 28% of electricity, while nuclear energy produced 9.9%. Over the past decade (2011-21), renewable installed capacity increased by 1.7 TW or 8.7% per year, while non-renewable sources grew by 1 TW or 2.2% per year, including 18 GW of nuclear power (IRENA, 2022a). Due to the growth of renewables and a decline in energy demand in recent years, the carbon intensity of power generation fell by 8.4% since 2015 (IEA, 2021a).

International collaboration on power sector decarbonisation and wider supporting areas is at a relatively developed stage compared to the other major sectors assessed in this report, with almost two decades of work in many areas in several global and regional settings. IEA and IRENA are established platforms for international cooperation on the power sector, and several streams of work have emerged from the G7 and G20 collaborative efforts. Regional entities including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and Organización Latinoamericana de Energía (OLADE) all have dedicated streams of work on low-carbon power, with increasing efforts toward regional integration. Several initiatives and campaigns also exist under the umbrella of the
Clean Energy Ministerial, including Power System Flexibility; Flexible Nuclear Campaign; Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future; and Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage. Significant collaborative work is also undertaken by the industry bodies such as Global Wind Energy Council, Global Solar Council, Long Duration Energy Storage Council and Global Power Systems Transformation Consortium.

Creating a regional market by building or taking advantage of interconnections between countries is also an effective way of increasing flexibility in power systems. Increased transmission capacity and interconnections allows electricity to be transported more readily, meaning that more resources can be used to help balance supply and demand. Consequently, operators in different systems can buy and sell electricity and other grid services from one another, creating regional markets. By sharing resources over larger regions, the need for operating reserves, as well as curtailment requirements and costs,
are reduced. There are several regional interconnections currently operational in the world. The largest
is the European interconnection managed by European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO-E), trading around 445 TWh of electricity across 35 countries in 2019 (UNSD, 2022). A number of other projects are under development. For instance, the African Continental Power Systems Master Plan (CMP) is an ongoing initiative led by the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) that aims to establish a long-term continentwide planning process for power generation and transmission involving all five African power pools (IRENA, 2021). The economic case for these projects is only strengthening as the technology of interconnectors continues to improve.

In the net zero scenario, a significant fraction of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen demand in 2030 onwards comes from new priority applications where hydrogen use is not yet commercialised. An urgent priority is therefore to demonstrate these new technologies in time to ensure their commercial viability before the end of this decade, allowing their deployment to significantly accelerate thereafter. This implies a strong prioritisation of the demonstration of: The use of renewable hydrogen in refining, and the production of chemicals (methanol and ammonia) and synthetic fuels. While this presents lower barriers relative to new hydrogen uses, there remain challenges with the operation of chemical plants under variable inputs of hydrogen—which would be the regime when using renewable hydrogen. This may require the demonstration of innovative processes to deal with variable operation regimes or new business models to address high storage needs to smooth out the variability.

Transport has the highest level of reliance on fossil fuels of any sector and accounted for 40% of CO2 emissions from all end‑use sectors at 7.7 GtCO2 in 2021, with road transport alone accounting for three-quarters at 5.9 GtCO2 (IEA, 2022a). It offers the largest markets in which to quickly scale-up the deployment of batteries, bringing down their costs and thereby supporting the decarbonisation of the power sector. Furthermore, as the largest market for oil, a rapid transition in road transport can help incentivise faster diversification of investment in the energy industry towards clean technologies.
Cars and vans currently contribute the largest share of road transport CO2 emissions at around 60%, but heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs)1 also contribute a large share, at more than 35%, despite accounting for less than 5% of the vehicles on the road (IEA, 2022b). In some countries, two- and three-wheelers also make up a significant share of vehicles on the road, such as Indonesia, where they consume in aggregate nearly as much gasoline as cars, or Viet Nam, where they consume more than 50% more gasoline than cars. These vehicle types are likely to be decarbonised at different rates, as technology maturity varies markedly between them, with two- and three-wheelers first (overwhelmingly battery electric), followed by cars and light-duty commercial vehicles (mostly battery and plug-in hybrid electric) and urban buses (largely battery electric, with some fuel cell electric sales). HDVs and intercity buses are at an earlier stage, with zero-emission models (mostly battery electric, with some plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric models) only just beginning to enter the market.

Developing and deploying new near-zero emission steel (NZS)technologies are essential for meeting these goals. Multiple low-emission primary steelmaking technologies, using hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), or direct electrification, are being developed and plans are underway to demonstrate these technologies over the 2020s. Several pilot plants are already in operation, including the Hybrit Project in Sweden, which uses hydrogen direct reduction and the 3D project in France, which uses CCUS on a blast furnace, with both operating since 2021.

To begin with, near-zero emission steel will be significantly more expensive to produce than high emission steel, at a premium of between 15-40% for first-of-a-kind (FOAK) plants over the 2020s (MPP, 2021). Much will depend on the cost of high emission steel, which fluctuates significantly (particularly over the past two years, driven by highly variable energy and raw material costs), as well as on progress in reducing the cost of near-zero emission steel production processes and their inputs. This has been confirmed by currently planned projects, such as H2 Green Steel’s plant in Sweden, which is targeting a 25% premium when it begins production in 2025 (Reuters, 2022). Overcoming this cost barrier is a critical challenge for the early phase of the transition. With the right policy support and coordinated international action to channel and mobilise investment and innovation, near-zero emission steel could start to approach cost parity with high emission steel by 2030 in the most favourable regions.

Achieving the Steel Breakthrough goal would produce a radical and enormously beneficial transformation for the sector globally. By 2030, the steel sector should be firmly on track to reach net zero emissions by the mid-century, illustrating that near-zero emission technologies are technically viable at commercial-scale in all regions. Collective action in the sector, reinforced by successes over the 2020s, could create a race to the top, with the most progressive companies being rewarded. Equally, local communities benefit from secure and clean jobs and significantly reduced air pollution.

The agriculture sector is the source of the world’s food, feed and fibre, while generating income and supporting billions of people in rural areas around the world. At the same time, the sector is particularly vulnerable to climate change and is one of the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Recent food, fuel, and fertiliser prices spikes have been exacerbated further by the war in Ukraine, driving more people into extreme poverty and malnourishment (WFP, 2022). This is on top of the climate-related stresses already reducing crop yields and hindering efforts to meet human needs (IPCC, 2022). Agriculture and land use change are responsible for 20% of global GHG emissions (FAO, 2022a). After considering emissions across food supply chains and food waste in landfills, total food system emissions account for about one-third of global GHG emissions (Crippa et al., 2021). Agriculture is the leading driver of land use change and biodiversity loss (Benton et al., 2021). Halting agricultural expansion into carbon-rich natural ecosystems is a necessary step to achieve the goals set out in the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, and to align with IPCC pathways for limiting global warming to 1.5ºC and even 2ºC. Agriculture is also responsible for broader environmental degradation, such as freshwater depletion, soil erosion, and the ecological impacts of fertiliser and manure run-off.

It is essential to ensure that efforts to mitigate emissions do not undercut initiatives to adapt and improve resilience. In line with these principles, the primary metrics of the Breakthrough goal is broken down into targets for tracking the progress in the sector to 2030 (see Figure 6.1).

Productivity improvements (crop, ruminant meat, and milk yields) (Valin et al., 2013), particularly in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs), are critical to the sustainability of agriculture because they can improve farm worker livelihoods and reduce incentives for agricultural expansion. Average cereal crop yields in Africa are about one-third of cereal yields in Europe and one-quarter of the Americas (Boehm et al., 2021). In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, increasing yields is a key lever to improve livelihoods while reducing poverty and hunger (IFPRI, 2022). By 2030, modelling suggests average yields of all crops must improve from 6.6 tonnes per hectare (t/ha) to 7.7 t/ha of cropland, 3 to allow broader climate mitigation targets to be met. Average yields of meat from ruminants (cattle, sheep,
goats, and buffalo) must improve from 27.4 kilogrammes per hectare (kg/ha) to 33.4 kg/ha of pastureland (Boehm et al., 2021).

There are four major components of emissions from agriculture and related land use change, which collectively make up 90% of the sector’s emissions: agricultural expansion and drained peatlands (4.3 billion tonnes), livestock enteric fermentation (2.8 billion tonnes), manure and fertilisers (2 billion tonnes), and rice cultivation (0.7 billion tonnes) (FAO, 2022a)6 Global farm-gate emissions (which includes livestock enteric fermentation, manure and fertilisers, and rice cultivation) have roughly doubled since 1961 (FAO, 2022a), and under a business-as-usual scenario are projected to grow by another 27% between 2017 and 2050 (Searchinger et al., 2021). Scenarios indicate that farm-gate emissions will constitute a larger share of total anthropogenic emissions in the future, as other sectors are projected to reduce their emissions to a greater extent by 2030 (Wollenberg et al., 2016). However, to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, emissions in 2030 would need to move in the other direction, instead falling by 22% relative to 2017. Current farm-gate emissions therefore must be reduced to 5.7 billion tonnes CO2e by 2030 (Searchinger et al., 2019).

The world needs to rapidly increase the number of demonstration projects of clean energy technologies and sustainable agriculture solutions, across multiple regions and sectors in parallel. International collaboration will be important in determining the priority gaps to address, and in ensuring deep, systematic and widespread sharing of learning between countries. International fora can also provide a ‘matchmaking’ function: enabling financiers, policy makers and consumers to understand the supply chain implications and business case for deploying new technologies, and to launch new demonstration projects. This will need to be supported by large-scale public investment, such as the USD 90 billion proposed at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) in June 2022 (The White House, 2022), including investment in institutions to support ongoing sharing of learning – particularly with countries that have limited resources for research, development and demonstration projects of their own.


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