International ‘collaboration gap’ threatens to undermine climate progress and delay net zero by decades

New report sets out urgent priorities to rapidly make more clean technologies the most affordable options in key sectors. By Climate Champions | September 20, 2022
  • Against the backdrop of the energy crisis and the threat of a global food crisis, expert authors urge leaders at COP27 to follow through on actions that would accelerate progress towards net zero emissions by decades, cut energy costs and boost food security for billions of people worldwide
  • The inaugural report highlights growing momentum across key sectors, including a doubling of electric vehicles (EVs) sales in 2021 and a forecast 8% increase in global renewable capacity in 2022
  • At COP26, 45 countries committed to make clean technologies the most affordable, accessible and attractive option in each major greenhouse gas emitting sector by 2030 under the ‘Breakthrough Agenda’
  • Ahead of the US-hosted Global Clean Energy Action Forum, this is the first assessment of priorities for strengthened collaborative action and progress so far, produced by the International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions
  • The Breakthrough Agenda Report sets out 25 collaborative actions to help make clean power, EVs, low-carbon steel and hydrogen, and sustainable farming the most affordable options as soon as possible

The first annual Breakthrough Agenda Report, requested by 45 world leaders, delivers a progress report on the actions needed to deliver on the historic clean technology commitment by governments representing two-thirds of the global economy. The Breakthrough Agenda, as the commitment is known, aims to align countries’ actions and coordinate investment to scale up deployment and drive down costs across five key sectors including – power, road transport, steel, hydrogen and agriculture.

Together, these sectors account for nearly 60% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today and could deliver the bulk of the emission reductions needed by 2030 in a pathway that would make a significant contribution to limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement goals.

The report notes an increase in practical international cooperation in recent years, and progress in deploying the technologies needed, including:

  • A doubling of EVs sales in 2021 from the previous year, to a new record of 6.6 million[1]
  • A forecast increase in global renewable capacity of 8% in 2022[2] – pushing through the 300GW mark for the first time and equivalent to powering approximately 225 million homes
  • Forecast global electricity generation cost reduction of at least USD 55 billion in 2022, based on new renewable capacity added in 2021[3]

However, the report also warns that far greater international cooperation is needed to get the world on track to meet its climate commitments.

“We are in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with devastating knock-on consequences across the world economy, especially in developing countries. Only by speeding up the transition to clean sustainable energy can we achieve lasting energy security,’’ said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Through international collaboration, we can make the transition quicker, cheaper and easier for everyone – on the back of faster innovation, greater economies of scale, bigger incentives to invest, level playing fields and benefits that are shared across all parts of society. Without this collaboration, the transition to net zero emissions will be much more challenging and could be delayed by decades.”

“The energy and climate crisis has exposed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of a system heavily reliant on fuels of the 20th century. Anything short of radical and immediate action will ultimately eliminate the chance of staying on the 1.5°C path,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. “The Breakthrough Agenda and our joint report sends a strong signal ahead of COP27 that greater international collaboration can amplify ambition and accelerate progress. Advancing the transition to renewables is a strategic choice to bring affordable energy, jobs, economic growth and a cleaner environment to the people on the ground.”

The report puts forward 25 recommendations for leaders to discuss at the Global Clean Energy Action Forum and the 13th Clean Energy Ministerial to be held in Pittsburgh, United States, from 21-23 September 2022.

These include:

  • Demonstrate and test flexible low-carbon power systems to expand the range of solutions and increase the share of variable renewables
  • Create new cross-border supergrids this decade to increase trade in low-carbon power, reduce emissions, improve energy security and enhance system flexibility
  • Set up new international centres of expertise to channel finance and technical assistance to help coal-producing countries’ transition
  • Agree a common definition and target dates by which all new road vehicles will be net zero, targeting 2035 for cars and vans and the 2040s for heavy duty vehicles
  • Mobilise investment in charging infrastructure, including prioritised assistance for developing countries and harmonise international charging standards to drive investment and accelerate adoption globally
  • Standards to boost the recyclability of batteries and supercharging research into alternative chemistries for batteries to reduce reliance on precious metals, such as cobalt and lithium
  • Government policies and private-sector purchase commitments to drive demand and deployment of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen alongside standards to enable global trade
  • Public and private commitments to purchase near-zero emission steel, and actions to level the playing field between steel producing nations
  • Investment for agriculture technologies and farming practices that can cut emissions from livestock and fertilisers, expand availability of alternative proteins and accelerate the development of climate resilient crops
  • International standards for monitoring and reporting on the state of natural resources on which agriculture depends, covering soil health, soil carbon content, and pollinator health

The report highlights that in addition to delivering urgent emissions reductions, stronger collaboration will both deliver a faster and a cheaper transition, while boosting jobs growth. Research from the IEA shows that without international collaboration, the transition to net zero global emissions could be delayed by decades. While new research cited by the report shows that some technology costs may decline by as much as 18% by 2030. And IRENA estimates cited by the report suggest an energy transition aligned with limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C could create close to 85 million additional jobs by 2030 compared to 2019, more than offsetting losses of 12 million jobs.

“This report highlights the need to ensure affordable access to clean and green sources of energy for all. This is also a strong reminder on the need for a focus on implementation, which must be the priority at the national, regional and local level, in order to have the necessary impact globally as well as the need for mobilization of appropriate finance,” said Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Egypt.

“Countries with the thousands of non-state actors running the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience must collaborate more strongly to drive forward the transition to affordable zero emission solutions in each emitting sector of the economy,” said Nigel Topping, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for the UK. “This is as essential for development as it is for avoiding dangerous climate change. Clear steps must be taken at COP27 to implement the Breakthrough Agenda commitment to collective action that makes clean technologies affordable and available to all who need them throughout the world.” 

Notes to editors: 

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Full recommendations included in the report:

Power: Renewable capacity increased 130% in the past decade, while non-renewable sources grew by 24%. The world needs to deliver additional renewable capacity of 630 GW for solar and 390 GW of wind each year by 2030, four times the current annual increase. To get there, the report calls on governments to:

  • Agree a clear set of strategic priority projects to demonstrate and test power system flexibility solutions, including energy storage
  • Increase the scale, coordination, and accessibility of international support for the power sector transition, building on established frameworks and successful models
  • More strongly align development funding with targeted support for local jobs, skills, and investment, for the repurposing of fossil fuel assets and for environmental restoration
  • Reassess the opportunities for cross-border and regional power interconnection to support the transition to clean power systems
  • Agree to higher minimum energy performance standards for high energy-consuming appliances

Road transport: Zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) accounted for around 9% of global car sales in 2021; this needs to reach 60% by 2030 and be supported by a 10-fold increase in public charging infrastructure

  • Agree a common definition and target dates by which all new road vehicles will be net zero, targeting 2035 for cars and vans and the 2040s for heavy duty vehicles
  • Mobilise investment in charging infrastructure, including prioritised assistance for developing countries and harmonise international charging standards to drive investment and accelerate adoption globally
  • Boost technical and financial assistance available to developing countries
  • Agree harmonised standards across the EV battery supply chain to enable reuse and recyclability of components and scale up R&D to reduce reliance on critical minerals such as cobalt and lithium
  • Harmonise international used-vehicle trading regulations to promote vehicle efficiency and prevent ‘vehicle dumping’ in countries with less stringent regulations

Hydrogen: Production of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen will need to increase from less than 1 Mt in 2020 to around 150 Mt by 2030, doubling each year from today.

  • Set near-term targets backed with policies and purchase commitments to drive deployment of low carbon and renewable hydrogen in sectors where hydrogen is currently used
  • Agree international standards and governance for renewable and low-carbon hydrogen including greenhouse gas accounting and certification, safety, and measurement and control of hydrogen leaks
  • Ramp up hydrogen demonstration projects and share learnings across high-value end-use sectors including shipping, heavy industry and long duration storage
  • Increase concessional finance by multi-lateral development banks to mobilise large scale private investment in hydrogen projects in developing countries

Steel: Production of low-carbon steel stands at less than 1 Mt today, with over 100 Mt required by 2030 to deliver a reduction in emissions intensity of 30%. Given the long lifetimes and investment cycles of steel countries must urgently:

  • Agree common definitions and standards for near zero emission steel
  • Roll out commercial scale pilots in all major steel producing regions by late 2020s
  • Drive demand by ramping up country and company procurement commitments covering significant share of future steel demand
  • Launch a strategic dialogue between producers and consumer countries to enable near zero steel to compete in international markets ensuring trade doesn’t act as a brake on transition
  • Significantly increase funds to drive industry transition in emerging and developing countries

Agriculture: Agriculture and related land use accounts for around 20% of global emissions. By 2030, the sector needs to deliver increased crop yields while halting the expansion of crop and pastureland to end deforestation. Countries should:

  • Ramp up investment in research, development and demonstration in technologies and farming practices that can boost productivity and resilience while reducing environmental impacts, with a focus on cutting emissions from livestock and fertilisers, expanding availability of alternative proteins and developing climate resilient crops
  • Work with multi-lateral development banks, and the private sector to increase international climate finance for agriculture, ensuring this is available to SMEs and smallholder farmers
  • Test, develop evidence, and share learning on approaches to redirecting policies and support for agriculture towards sustainability and climate resilience
  • Launch a strategic dialogue to ensure international trade accelerates the transition to sustainable agriculture, starting with agricultural commodities that disproportionately contribute to deforestation
  • Agree international standards for monitoring and reporting on state of natural resources on which agriculture depends covering soil health, soil carbon content, and pollinator health

Additional quotes: 

“With around half the emissions reductions needed for 1.5°C coming from technologies still under development, the Breakthrough Agenda is essential. Greater public-private and international collaboration can help accelerate the innovation emerging markets need to leapfrog to low-carbon and ensure their continued prosperity,” said Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered.

“Even in hard-to-abate industries like steel, the solutions are there. Businesses must rise to the occasion and take action to accelerate the speed of change,” said Henrik Henriksson, CEO of H2 Green Steel.

“With our aim to be fully electric by 2030 and science-based climate plan, Volvo Cars fully supports the Breakthrough Agenda,” said Stuart Templar, Director, Global Sustainability of Volvo Car Company. 

“Cities are accelerating the clean energy transition to protect residents from expensive fossil fuels – creating jobs and cleaning up the air at the same time,” said Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities.

[1] IEA: 

[2] IEA:

[3] IRENA: