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A Bridge to the Future: Pathways to Net-Zero

24 February 2021 Susan Farrell

Throughout 2020, countries continued to announce targets to achieve net-zero emissions in spite of an accelerating pandemic and an historic recession. With the inclusion of China and now the United States, some 67% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are covered by national statements of intent. At the same time, company net-zero goals flowed throughout the year, and financial institutions outlined stricter guidance for investing.

Although momentum for climate-related accountability, measurement, and strategic portfolio testing is accelerating, against what time horizons should investment plans be tested? Hydrocarbons (oil, gas and coal) still make up 80% of primary energy demand; although the installation of renewable capacity is rising dramatically, the massive existing energy infrastructure does not turn over quickly. What scenarios should be used to assess future investments and divestments in order to achieve a smooth but rapid transition? How can a transition serve shareholder interests, as well as broad social and environmental goals?

  • The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommends the use of scenario analysis, including those that achieve the goal of keeping global temperature rise to well below 2° C by 2100. In the past two years, a sense of urgency has moved the goal closer to achieving a 1.5°C pathway and net-zero global emissions by 2050.
  • The IHS Markit low emissions cases provide for a short, but realistic "bridge" from today's energy systems toward a 1.5°C path, reflecting the time needed to see the results of stricter policies and actions expected to be taken over the next several years. In these cases, emissions rise somewhat from the 2020 recession decline, and then plateau before moving lower.

To learn more about our executive news for the climate and cleantech sectors, visit our page for Executive Briefings: Climate & Cleantech.

Posted 24 February 2021 by Susan Farrell, Vice President, Energy Futures

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