Net Zero 2050-A struggling ambitious plan

COP26 at Event Complex, Glasgow, Scotland

“Climate Change is not the problem; it is the expression of the problem” was the statement that I heard during the COP26, and it stuck in my mind since then. How obviously true it may sound yet we do not realize this, or at least not deal with this as per the statement. Most of us have been seeing climate change with the perspective that highlights it as a problem. Coming from a developing country, I have seen adaptation, that is dealing with Climate Change using an approach to adjust with the current and future effects, being generally more accepted than the mitigation approach, which is putting an axe to the ways that are causing climate change. This was the motivation behind the Paris agreement signed by 193 parties of the UNFCCC; to take measures for both, adaptation as well as mitigation. But the question is, how can the countries, nations, and governments focus on adaptation and mitigation while they are struggling with stabilizing their economy? Often would think of an answer of “Climate finance” to support developing nations and as reasonable as it sounds, I wonder how practical, or rather sustainable, this solution is? Let alone about its sustainability, the question is, can this plan even be delivered?

In 2009, wealthy nations pledged to “mobilize” $100bn per annum under climate finance. The goal was supposed to be achieved after 11 years, in 2020. However, after a decade and just before one year of the delivery date, the plan was revised to conclude that the target will not be met until 2023. This not only delayed the plans that developing countries might have developed, in the hopes of gaining some financial support, and placed in pipelines but also undermined the trust between nations. At COP26, we saw a similar pledge by developed countries of at least doubling the funding for adaptation by 2025, which would amount to at least $40 billion. Will the pledge be delivered in a timely fashion is a question for later times but for now, one must think about how to move forward towards net-zero by 2050 goal, collectively while realizing the differences among starting points and high disproportion in the availability of resources? This simplest of the available solutions seems to donate or “mobilize” funding in “climate finance” but there also lies another option of enabling the countries and governments and building resiliency. This theme is sometimes also referred to as capacity building.

Capacity building is one building block utilized to generate resilience and help the nations move towards the net-zero target together. International atomic energy association (IAEA) has been playing a significant role in this through offering support in the form of analytical tools, training, education, and technical assistance for energy systems. Stankeviciute Loreta, an energy economist at IAEA, shared numerous of the software packages that IAEA has developed and made available to the member countries for free of cost. These packages, such as MAED, WASP, MESSAGE, SIMPACTS, and many others vary in capabilities from modeling energy demand to system planning and energy supply strategy alternatives and their general environmental impacts. These tools can play a significant role in devising plans of energy forecasting and environmental analysis for the power market, which happens to be a significant source of emissions in the US[1]. These tools can be helpful when designing and commissioning new renewable energy projects and transitioning from existing ones, as can be seen with the city of NEOM that Saudi Arabia is planning to build on the west side of the country. The country has to build the electricity generation and transmission system along with other infrastructure, right from the scratch.

Week 1 of the COP26 also had quite a few dialogues and discussions around the “green opportunities” such as producing green hydrogen. UAE has launched the region’s first industrial-scale plant to produce green hydrogen – said H.E. Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, UAE during the International Renewable Energy Agency’s event at COP26 called “Disrupting the Status Quo: Accelerating the Global Energy Transition for a 1.5C future.” Saudi Arabia is also building a $5 billion green fuel plant for export in a bid to become the world’s largest supplier of green hydrogen[2]. This is a promising step however, stringent regulations and more mitigation efforts are required to curtail the carbon emissions as Abu Dhabi’s state oil company, known as Adnoc, announced a plan to develop what’s known as blue ammonia[3]. Whereas the green hydrogen is produced from the electrolysis of water, the blue Hydrogen or blue ammonia, which uses blue hydrogen, is typically produced from natural gas, which is a carbon-emitting fossil fuel[4]. Although the electric power source may originate from a renewable energy source, such as solar, the carbon emissions from the natural gas being used to convert to Hydrogen are considered an addition to the climate and potentially a hindrance towards achieving net-zero, unless these are being captured.

Yvonne Densie Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone sharing thoughts at the International Renewable Energy Agency event during the Global Climate Change Conference, Glasgow.

Lastly, although the concept of NetZero by 2050 sounds appealing, we need to realize that not all participating entities share the same level of resources to play their role towards this global pledge. Various countries, nations, and local governments do not even have enough financial resources to start investing in mitigation and adaptation goals. Even within the same country Cities differ so much in resources. “All cities have the role but not all cities have the same mandate and resources,” said Yvonne Denise Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone. While conversing about the transition towards renewable energy she added, “Solar, wind, and RE generally won’t be sufficient if your energy access per capita is 10 times less than the world’s average. We need to make sure that we are not generating inequalities through this transition.” This concept of unequal transition can easily be applied to countries too hence, the pledge to mobilize finances comes in to play its role which brings us back to where we started, “Can we even achieve this goal of mobilizing finances from developed countries to developing countries to have a just renewable energy transition that would help us achieve NetZero 2050 goal together?


[1] Regulating power sector carbon emissions. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. (2021, January 5). Retrieved December 22, 2021, from https://www.c2es.org/content/regulating-power-sector-carbon-emissions/

[2] González, R. P. (2021, March 8). Saudi Arabia aims to become the world’s largest green hydrogen producer and exporter. Atalayar. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://atalayar.com/en/content/saudi-arabia-aims-become-worlds-largest-green-hydrogen-producer-and-exporter

[3] Racliffe, V. (2021, May 25). Abu Dhabi to Build $1 Billion Green Hydrogen and Ammonia Plant. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-25/abu-dhabi-to-build-1-billion-green-hydrogen-and-ammonia-plant

[4] Koons, E. (2021, September 22). Hydrogen oil: Green vs blue, what’s the difference? Energy Tracker Asia. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://energytracker.asia/hydrogen-oil-green-vs-blue-whats-the-difference/

3 thoughts on “Net Zero 2050-A struggling ambitious plan

    1. In simple words, net-zero means not adding greenhouse gases (GHG) to the atmosphere or keeping the amount of GHG constant. This is typically done by extensively reducing the emissions and also capturing/removing the equivalent amount of GHG from the atmosphere to what is being added hence, keeping it net zero.

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