G7 countries must target net zero power by 2035

By Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Champions for the COP25 and COP26 summits | October 20, 2021

We are in a race. A race to a healthier, fairer, more resilient, zero carbon world. A race against the dangerous idea that we can’t do this, that there is no way.

To reach such a zero carbon world by 2050 requires an unprecedented global transformation of how energy is used, transported, and produced. The backbone of this transformation is the shift to a zero emission electricity system, given the electricity sector currently comprises approximately 25% of global emissions.

Today the IEA publishes ‘Achieving Net Zero Electricity Sectors in G7 members’, following the G7’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest and to achieve an overwhelmingly decarbonized power system in the 2030s. The G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and USA, plus the EU), will use the report to develop short term actions focused on stronger collaboration and better co-ordination.

On publication of the report, the UN High Level Climate Action Champions Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping said: “We welcome the IEA’s report on achieving net zero electricity sectors in the G7. These countries should provide leadership in the energy transition. Decarbonizing electricity is essential to keep 1.5 degrees alive, as well as to provide the power for electrification of other sectors.

Key G7 milestones in the report include phase out of unabated coal and reaching 60% renewable share of electricity by 2030 and overall net zero electricity emissions by 2035. The private sector stands ready to support this effort. Already over 20% of major utilities by revenue have joined the Race to Zero, helping to achieve  breakthrough ambition in the clean power sector.

The next step will be achieving the Race to Zero breakthrough outcome of 60% of global electricity sourced from renewables by 2030. We look forward to seeing actors in the industry race towards this target”

In recent months, we have seen non-state actors mobilizing rapidly towards the guiding star of halving emissions by 2030,  with over 6,000 companies, cities, regions, and financial, institutions now committed to the UN Race to Zero campaign. Several energy company Race to Zero members from G7 countries have also welcomed the IEA report today.

John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, a leading energy utility from the UK and USA, has said: “There is an urgent need for the G7 countries to meet net zero commitments and create cleaner energy systems that will transform how we power our lives. We are delighted that the report and the G7 countries share our vision to be at the heart of a clean, fair and affordable energy future. The decarbonization of electricity grids by 2035 can be achieved through solutions we have already set out in the UK, and the G7 now have a clear opportunity to accelerate the global energy markets toward net zero missions for everyone. The report provides a clear roadmap for how we will work together with our Race to Zero colleagues, across the G7 and beyond, to make it happen faster.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, CEO of SSE, a leading low carbon energy company from the UK, has said: “We are building more offshore wind than anyone else in the world right now because we are clear that decarbonizing the power sector globally is the place to start if we want to deliver net zero as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. The power sector has made a lot of progress but clearly we have a long way to go.

“We welcome the call for G7 countries to show leadership and target a net zero power system by 2035 through accelerating deployment of renewables, electrifying heat and transport, building more storage and flexibility and reinforcing networks to enable the renewables-led system the world needs to limit climate change to 1.5°C. As the report states, there is also a real opportunity to drive a green economic recovery and create skilled, long-term jobs through this transition. We hope that world leaders will take the opportunity at COP26 to send clear policy signals that will help unlock the significant investment that will be needed to achieve this vision.”

Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel, a multinational energy company from Italy, has said: “This new study reaffirms that we already have mature technology at our disposal to undertake much of the Transition: decarbonized electricity from renewables and increasing electrification of end-uses. These solutions, and additional R&D to develop technologies for end uses that are difficult to electrify, give G7 countries the opportunity to lead the energy transitions, while at the same time generating a positive impact on the economy and jobs”

If non-state actors race together with governments, we have the opportunity to rapidly accelerate progress, generating a positive feedback loop of public-private partnerships and radical collaboration that deliver breakthroughs across the real economy to achieve decarbonization at scale. Countries and non-state actors can either choose to do what it takes to win this race, or be complicit in condemning future generations to vast economic damage and untold human suffering.

Less than 12 days from COP26, the science couldn’t be clearer. Every decision, every day and every fraction of a degree counts.