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Net Zero Emission – Mission Impossible?

Global Equities

BNP Paribas Asset Management

Key Insights

  • In this white paper we argue that it is possible to reach the target of net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by midcentury. However, the current policy pathway will not get us to the target. Solely focusing on renewable energy and electrifying everything is bound to fail, and the world needs to recognize that (cleaner) fossil fuels will continue to be part of the energy mix for the rest of this century.
  • Instead of very expensive arbitrary subsidies for favored technologies we should keep an open mind and rapidly get CO2 taxes to $50-100/ton across the world to create a level playing field for different abatement solutions. We should recognize that the climate doesn’t care how we get to net zero, only that we do. Much more broad-based activation of nature-based carbon sinks like oceans, forests and the soil are required if we want to realize the ambition of tackling climate change. In doing so, we also simultaneously address the issue of collapsing biodiversity across the planet.

Back in 2015 we concluded, that energy no longer was a resource, but rather a technology. Costs of new technologies fall over time, and we expected storage and energy costs would continue to fall. Electricity produced from solar panels and windmills is today the cheapest electricity available in most parts of the world. Over the coming decades renewable energy prices will continue to fall and take most of the market for electricity generation. Electric vehicles saw real acceleration in sales in 2020 and within a few years will be the obvious choice for all when buying a car. A new technology that is cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable than the existing technology will not take a 5% or 10% market share position and reach a happy equilibrium with the old technology – the new technology will eventually take everything.

Challenges in the transition

It will, however, be extremely difficult if not impossible to decarbonize the entire world economy with renewable energy like solar and wind over a short period of only 30 years. Today total investments in solar and wind is around USD300 billion per year. This adds 200 GW of capacity generating 360 TWh per year of new renewable electricity production globally in a global energy system of 70,000 TWh1). At this run-rate, it will take 150-200 years for wind and solar to reach 50% of a larger future energy system. Even though renewable capacities are forecast to ten double between now and 2050, solar and wind will still represent less than 50% of the total energy mix by then.

Read more Download the White Paper

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