The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned on Thursday of the “critical need” to speed up clean energy innovation. This is because the climate targets set by governments and companies around the world depend on technologies that have not yet reached the market.
“The message is very clear: in the absence of much faster clean energy innovation, achieving clear zero targets in 2050 will be impossible,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA.
Important parts of the world economy do not yet have clear energy options. Electricity companies are throwing coal in favor of increasingly affordable solar and wind power. And all the major carmakers are struggling to develop the best electric vehicles to compete with Tesla.
However, there are few technologies available to reduce emissions to zero in areas such as shipping, trucks and aviation, the IEA said. The same problem exists in heavy industries such as steel, cement and chemicals.
“Drying these areas will greatly require the development of new technologies that are not currently in commercial use,” the report said.
And that’s not slam dunk. It took decades to increase solar panels and batteries to become economical. And many technologies have failed.
“Time is even shorter,” the IEA report said.
“Disconnection” between goals and efforts
This does not mean that no progress has been made.
However, the ILO stated that “there are no simple or straightforward solutions to put the world on a sustainable path to clean zero emissions.”
About three-quarters of the carbon dioxide emissions reductions should come from technologies that “have not yet reached full maturity,” the report said.
For example, while battery technology has evolved significantly, the IEA has said that “rapid progress” is needed to move battery prototypes to the world’s long-distance transportation needs.
However, not enough money is available from companies or the public sector to research next-generation energy solutions.
“There is a disconnect between climate goals set by governments and companies for themselves and the efforts being made to develop better and cheaper technologies to achieve those goals,” IEA’s Birol said.
Pandemic offers hurt energy costs
This disconnect, like many others now, is reinforced by the pandemic.
This slowdown in spending undermines efforts to develop clean energy solutions.
“Failure to accelerate progress now,” the IOC report said, “risks jeopardizing the transition to clean zero emissions in the future.”